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SEO Google Hummingbird and Web Content

SEO, Google and Hummingbird in 2014

Hat Trick Associates – SEO and Google Hummingbird, Explaining Algorithm Changes

Prior to Google’s Penguin and Panda, SEO (search engine optimization) often repeating keywords and phrases throughout blog posts and webpages. This achieved a higher Page Rank for a website, so SEO strategists figured out what the algorithms were looking for and flooded their content with it. But it didn’t provide much value to the end user.

If you remember those days, many searches would pull up nonsense articles, but which included the key words you were looking for. Searches yielded frustration because you pulled up sites that appeared on the surface to address your needs, but turned out to be bogus sales sites.

If a webmaster wanted to appear on the first page of Google for a competitive (and lucrative) term like “make money online,” he would repeat the phrase approximately 5% of the time in an article. He would also include it in the article’s title and high in the actual text, such as “Make Money Online The Right Way.” The result was useless pages and posts, and unfulfilled search needs.

Another strategy was to use the importance that Google placed on links from other websites using specific anchor text, such as “make money online”, to your advantage. Using this strategy allowed blogger John Chow to raise his ranking from 158 to the coveted number three spot on Google for that lucrative phrase. Google measured backlinks because they figured it was a good sign of the site’s popularity with searches. Chow still enjoys that number three spot, having somehow (with new SEO techniques, surely) survived Google’s numerous algorithm changes.

Google designed the most recent Penguin and Panda algorithms to make searches more effective and valuable for consumers, which meant that the content of articles (finally) rose to supreme importance.  The changes benefited consumers because rich content rose to the top of searches rather than hollow shells that offered no real answers or information. The algorithms made SEO more complex than keywords and backlinks, forcing marketers to provide rich content if they wanted to land on Google’s first page.

Web content marketing arose in response, with the idea that solid information, knowledge, and answers provide the most benefit to searchers. Effective marketers found the way to use rich web content to market their product.

Hummingbird Refines Searching with Penguin and Panda

The most recent evolution is Google’s 2013 Hummingbird, which positions search queries and language in primary importance. The update’s name “Hummingbird” reflects the goal of being precise and fast like the animal, focusing on the meaning and intent of the searcher rather than just the words. The algorithm favors titles and content that respond to user needs and queries. The tool can better understand speech, and passes the benefits on to searchers. Think of Google’s Hummingbird as a super smart and ultra-fast reader.

The following methods will help you in working with SEO for your blog or webpages in general:

    Write rich, high quality content that responds to user needs

Google’s shift toward making results pages more valuable to readers favors rich content, helping people who are looking for your writing. Rather than focusing exclusively on key terms and littering the article with repeated phrases, articles should deliver quality content, with reliable information and credible references. As long as you focus your article on a key idea, you won’t have to worry about using terms repeatedly.

Adapt your writing to meet the needs of the reader, anticipating answers to the questions they have. You should still research key terms and see the traffic they are generating, but pay attention to the heart of your reader’s question and what they need, focusing on full phrases and sentences instead of two word combinations.

    Write long, in-depth content

You should always be in the process of re-purposing old content, a topic for another day. But for now replace the thin pages of your website, articles of 250 words or fewer, with content that delves deep into an issue or challenge that concerns your readers. Your writing needs to be solid. Not just lengthy blathering to fill pages, but 800 to 1200 words of expertly-researched and edited material. Break out your basic journalistic questioning skills when writing: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

    Social signals really matter, especially Google +1’s

In turning search results to focus on the searcher, it makes sense that Google would reward pages with many +1s because people are marking the valuable content. Research shows that (not surprisingly) Google favors their own system of sharing above those of other social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Measure and evaluate the sharing that takes place on Google Plus, and adapt to make this your most important sharing resource.

As time goes forward, Google+ and other social media will continue to become more significant in search ranking. Searchers are clearly able to demonstrate their content preferences through social sharing, and posting on your own account is a public declaration and vote for the quality of the content. In 2014, Google will maintain the #2 position in social media easily and will probably begin to threaten Facebook for the top spot.

    Don’t assume everything you read about SEO is true

Even though many “experts” will elaborate on their understanding of the recent changes in Google’s algorithm, the truth is that only when talking about SEO and Google Hummingbird, only they really know their own code. There are hundreds of tweaks and updates in each update, extremely hard to keep track of, and many SEO “experts” are as much in the dark as you are.

Real SEO experts are the ones quietly getting results every day. Their experience shows what works, so experimenting with techniques and monitoring results are key. Hands-on SEO with metrics will work best in targeting traffic. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t research SEO, but you’ll find conflicting information.

    Remember Google+ local and other consistent search ranking factors

If your business operates on a local level, make sure that you use Google+ Local and other social media resources that provide resources for searchers to discover nearby places and write reviews.

Moz.com recently updated their local search ranking factors 2013 survey, which monitors successful SEO strategy and campaigns long-term. They report that just a few backlinks from high-quality websites can really elevate rankings, while excessive back-linking is no longer desirable. The survey also shows that the business name should be present in headlines and title tags, to show additional relevance.

Moving Forward with SEO in 2014

Remember that SEO changes continually, and you should always adapt. Hummingbird is certainly not the last algorithm change. In addition to the basic goal of improving user experience, Google always wants to be ahead of the SEO practitioners who learn the ins-and-outs of the newest updates and attempt to game the system.

Time, experience, and measurement will help you evolve to meet the algorithm updates and ranking “tweaks” of the future. Google will never arrive at a stage where the algorithms are stagnant because they always evolve to meet the needs of consumers. Keeping the searcher and reader in mind will help you consistently adapt to algorithm changes.