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Hummingbird Hype? Is Google’s Hummingbird the iPhone 5 C of SEO?

Google has announced an entirely new search algorithm called Hummingbird, here. Allegedly, the update means that Google is smarter than ever, and clearly is part of Google’s move towards more natural semantic search. Reading between the tea leaves it is very early to tell what is truly different with the Hummingbird algorithm vs. the old algorithm. What has changed?  What hasn’t? What rules have changed?

Should we freak out? Or should we “keep calm and carry on?”

Google Hummingbird AlgorithmThe SEO community has taken the bait and is all abuzz that this is a radical, magnificent, incredible change in the algorithm. Earth-shattering comes to mind. But how can a hummingbird shatter the earth? Should we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Is there more going on here than an algorithm change?

Is it a revolution? Is it an earth-shattering change? Or is it the iPhone 5 C?

In my opinion, the Hummingbird – so far – is sort of the iPhone 5 C of algorithm changes.  Every tech company constantly has to release earth-shattering, amazing new technology to stay in the news, be cool, and – well – drive up the stock price.  The iPhone  5 C is now in color!  It’s plastic!  It’s in red!  It’s amazing.

Hummingbird seems to affect primarily natural searches / when people try to “talk” to Google like it’s – Siri – vs. just type in keywords.

Beyond the Hype of Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm

First and foremost, anyone serious about SEO should be measuring their rank on Google vs. their target keywords on at least weekly basis. If Google changes the algorithm or your competitive environment changes, you should see a change in your rank! Ask yourself if you, or your potential customers, are starting to type natural speech into Google on their desktops or mobile phones? That might make sense when one is driving: Hey Google, I need a nearby pizza restaurant!  But when looking for an industrial fan, not so much. So if you sell Pizza, Hummingbird and the move to semantic search might be a big change… but if you sell industrial equipment not so much.

Have your rankings changed? Has your customer behavior changed in terms of how they search? If not, please stop freaking out and taking the latest Google bait.  The iPhone 5 is in color!  It’s plastic!  It’s available in red!

Keep calm and carry on.

Also realize that the news media – the folks who produce blogs, and magazines, and especially SEO trade shows benefit by hype.  Everything is new!  Everything is different!  You MUST come to our fill-in-the-blank conference to learn the fill-in-the-blank latest revolutionary change by Google.

Be skeptical.  Please be skeptical.  Not just of Google but of the echo-chamber of the SEO media that lives and thrives on fear, on hype, and ways to get you to the latest trade show.

The Basics of SEO Still Apply: Eat Less and Exercise More

Despite what Google and the SEO cognoscenti would have us believe, the basics of SEO still apply. Yes, we need great, compelling content.  Yes, we should write for humans and not for Google. Yes, yes, yet, good quality content is important. But important is not sufficient!  Necessary is not sufficient!

Good quality content in and of itself is not sufficient!  This idea is probably the #1 most dangerous bit of disinformation by Google and the SEO cognoscenti today.

“Our guidance to webmasters is the same as always — we encourage original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.” ~ Google

It is not enough.  Google has no interest in explaining SEO, so it continually tells people don’t worry about.  Don’t look at the man behind the curtain – that strange little man who still thinks that TITLE tags matter.

Basic rules of SEO.  They’re still important.  They’re still critical:

  • Know your target keywords.  Language is keyword centric. People think by keywords, search by keywords, and structure their discourse around keywords.  Nothing is going to change that because language is “above” SEO.  Figure out how your customers search for you, and be ready to respond in an appropriate way.
  • On page SEO.  All the oldies but goodies: TITLE tags, META description tags, H1, H1, Images, cross-links and link sculpting.
  • Off page SEO. Links, links, links.  Here there have been some changes such as Penguin penalizing overoptimized inbound links, and the newer trend towards social mentions and authority.
  • Landing behavior. When someone lands on your website, what do they see? Do they want to take the next step?

Hummingbird, to the extent that it becomes a major change, may impact some of these aspects of SEO. But it certainly will not and really cannot overturn the basics.  Where it does seem to have some potential for change is in the localized searches for “pizza” and “nearby coffee houses” – sort of trend towards a Siri-like interface on Google.

That’s definitely important, especially if your customers are on mobile phones, but not yet in my opinion a true revolution.

Recommended Articles on Hummingbird Algorithm

Note that in all the above articles, real facts and data are very hard to come-by.  Much of this is very early, very hype-oriented, and not at all clear what – if anything – has really changed.  If Hummingbird is a revolutionary change, we are not seeing it yet.

Remember, the iPhone 5 is now available as a “C” – in color! In red! It’s revolutionary!

Just as in physical fitness, the basics never ever really change: eat less, exercise more. Know your keywords. Write strong keyword-heavy content. Weave those keywords into tags. Get links. Think about the landing experience.

Don’t believe everything that is hyped by Silicon Valley as revolutionary.

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