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Google Hummingbird – Absolute Disaster or New Hope?

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In September Google changed the way they categorize all of the information they collect. In October they announced it officially. Internally the new algorithm was called Hummingbird – and naming it after an agile bird was no mistake – Google is looking to be fast and precise. The name of the game here is answering questions on mobile devices quickly and efficiently.

Make no mistake, this is a massive change, going from desktop to mobile and going from keyword-based search to semantic search, Google is looking to be the answer to your questions. Looking at Siri and Google Now/Google Glass – these are the models that this new way of searching is based upon. Google is looking at providing a way to answer your question without needing to go into a website to show you what the answer might be.  Google, in essence, is becoming the answer.

What does that mean for business owners?

Google is changing the way we play, but it always has – and we have always found new ways to make sure that our clients are seen. SEO is an ever-evolving marketing discipline, and is more accurately described as “inbound marketing” at this point anyway, encompassing a variety of disciplines including SEO, social media and a variety of other digital tactics.

Long ago in SEO, you could “stuff” white keywords in your site’s background, have the same content up on your site for five years straight, and not worry about how fast your pages loaded an enormous Flash movie. This is gone now, and we have adapted, and will continue to adapt to whatever Google or the next search engine that may pop up will throw at us.

Will it change the way we have to do SEO work to be found?

Yes. Changing from keyword to semantic search is a fairly large change. Already we’ve seen some interesting results in blog articles – one in particular was titled “Should I Include My Picture in My Resume?” – after the algorithm went through (my stats look like Hummingbird hit us on August 20th) that particular post shot through the roof in traffic, following exactly what semantic search should look like. 

Will it completely ruin all of the things that we have had done with SEO in the last 2 years?

No. We practice techniques that follow Google’s guidelines and while things have changed a great deal in the last 2 -3 years, fresh, quality content is still a huge building block of Search Engine Optimization.  

Will being higher in search results be even more important now?  

Yes, but with semantic search you need to anticipate what visitors are asking to solve, not just figure out what words they are using to find something out. It’s moving in a direction to interact closer with humans, rather than a simple database query, and this is all part of the AI initiative that Google has been working on for years now.

Is Google taking away all of the keyword data that we have relied upon to make better ROI decisions?

No, but they are taking away most of it.

Under the guise of “protecting the consumer” from the NSA, evil marketers, etc., Google is ever increasing the list of “not provided” keywords (right now our average client probably has about 65% of their keywords “not provided”) in Google Analytics…the issue with that is they are only taking it away from people that can’t pay for it, the “commoners” that don’t have $150,000 a year to spend on Google Analytics Premium, ” because the best numbers shouldn’t be only for those with the biggest pockets” – direct quote from their website.

So what do we do now?

So what do we do if Google wants to be the destination, instead of our websites? Reasonably this should be a terrifying prospect, but to an inventive and unique business owner, it can also give you hope. You see, Google will go after the most standard questions first, answering them easily in their results, using data on websites that it has scraped (some have said illegally), through the carousel method or Google Knowledge Graph that you may have seen. But for the inventive business owner that knows her niche well, she can be the top result – and Google will have to send the visitor to her site because it hasn’t prepared a standardized answer for that query.

In addition, you can also diversify your efforts, looking to other inbound marketing tactics and other search engines to improve your traffic, such as blogging, PPC, email marketing, Social Media, and know that you aren’t the only one in the boat, being forced by Google to pick up the tab for one of the largest tech companies wanting to raise their profits.

So just like in the real world, Google is making us do some business reflection – are we in business because we saw someone else do it and copied it, or do we have a business that provides unique services to others that differentiate you from the crowd? Do you work with college students? Baby boomers? Telecommuting moms? Just as business has always been competitive, you can be competitive in Google too, using the main tenets of a solid business plan to shine through. Identify your target, craft your niche, become the leading authority in that target market, oh, and have an expert at SEO relay all of those fantastic things to Google for you J .

For more information on SEO and the new Google Hummingbird update, contact the marketing experts at Haley Marketing Group. We have the experience to help you develop your brand online, and drive traffic back to your website.

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