Don’t Worry About Hummingbird, Trust Me

By jrosen | November 10th, 2013


If you’re running a business that relies on online lead generation and conversions, or selling products in a straight up or hybrid e-commerce model, then there’s a decent chance animal-names like Panda, Penguin and now Hummingbird have had you all shook up. If you’ve been following Google’s algorithm updates over the last couple years, then you’re likely familiar with the newest one – what’s being referred to as “a new engine” for the beast of a semi-truck that is Google – “Hummingbird.”

As any SEO expert worth their salt should, I’ve followed Hummingbird over the past few months (Google says it launched in August), looking at traffic patterns of various websites that we monitor Google Analytics for. I’ve also read many blog posts and takes from others in the industry on the purpose of Hummingbird, it’s similarities and differences to Panda, Penguin and “Caffiene” – the last major engine change of this magnitude – and what it really means for businesses.

The fact is that it means much more for the SEO industry than it does for your business. I know that seems weird to say, but after being “on the market” for almost four months now, Hummingbird has been as quiet as Google Exec Amit Singhal wanted it when he barely mentioned it’s release in a blog post back in late August/early September. It’s purpose isn’t to really shake up the SERP (search engine results page), nor to emphasize long-tail search queries, but to use semantics and context of each individual search to yield more relevant results. “Hummingbird’s objective is not a newer optimization of the indexation process, but to better understand the users’ intent when searching, thereby offering the most relevant results to them,” writes .

After digging long and hard, the best example I can give you is that Hummingbird listens to a long search string, like “where can I find a deal on pizza tonight?” and cross references the search phrase with other data like “where is the user located right now?,” “what pizza places have they ordered from previously,” and what “deals” are listed in the searchers geolocation?

So there’s not a whole lot Google is asking you to do on your website from an on-page optimization standpoint. They’re just looking to customize each search as much as possible based on the user’s overall situation and context.

It’s something new for Google, and very new for “SEOs,” but not new at all for business owners. If anything, Hummingbird should reinforce what smart business owners and marketers already know how to do – keep content, calendars, deals, special offers, location pages and news – fresh, up-to-date and distributed often.

While Panda and Penguin scared some businesses away from on-page optimization practices and press release distribution, Hummingbird simply reinforces context and relevancy over all else. Less of a scare tactic, and more of encouraging good content.

So as you continue to plan and execute your content strategy, don’t worry so much about Google updates, but instead focus on putting quality information out there for your readers to share and come back to. Focus on engagement best practices like headline length and answering relevant and unique questions, rather than stuffing pages and posts with keywords and long-tail phrases.

Also – one underlying theme of Hummingbird content is local search. The goal is to look at more context within the search phrase, and the lowest hanging fruit Google has is geolocation data and mobile devices to work with. That said, local search is becoming more and more important. When identifying which keywords to go after, your thought process should change from “which keywords are being searched the most” to “what situations will people be in when they’re ready to research and/or buy my product or service.”

Google, more than ever, will reflect and reward best business practices – something I think we’re all looking forward to.  So don’t worry that much about Hummingbird for now. Over time, it will be something that your business should reap the benefits of, as the traffic Google Organic sends to your website should theoretically be more interested in your products and services than ever before.

Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLCan Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.


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