Adapting Your Company’s Website for Google Hummingbird and the Dawn of the Semantic Search

As a developer, your company’s website is your pride and joy and the cornerstone of your business’s marketing strategy. You spend hours researching the right keywords for your industry and go cross-eyed studying its analytics. You've developed quality outside links to your site, and your social media campaigns are on point. Over the last month or two, however, traffic on your site has been declining despite your best and, until now, successful SEO strategies. The genesis of your search engine woes may be Hummingbird, the latest and most sophisticated Google algorithm update to date.

On September 26, 2013, Google announced that it had implemented Hummingbird approximately one month prior. Whereas previous updates such as Panda and Penguin functioned as a tune-up to Google, Hummingbird is tantamount to dropping in a whole new engine. The main focus of this update is the recognition of conversational, long-tail search queries to provide more specific results.

This latest evolution is a result of the ever-growing mobile device market. When using voice recognition such as Siri, people tend to make their requests in a conversational manner, so it's important to Google that its voice search technology provides mobile users with the same semantic and comfortable user experience.

So how do developers adapt to Hummingbird, an update that impacted 90 percent of search queries worldwide? The following concepts will not only help you adapt your company's website but prepare it for the future of SEO.

It’s Not About You

This particular update was created to improve the end-user search experience and provide relevant results based on more semantic search queries. It was not meant to change the dynamics of SEO or reduce the ranks of  low-quality sites. Unlike previous updates, it was meant to be transparent from an SEO standpoint. However, the use of long-tail conversational queries will almost certainly bless websites that already provide quality, descriptive content. It is important to maintain your off-the-page SEO tactics, as Hummingbird should not affect them one way or the other.

Keywords Are Still Important

While semantic search is not the death of a keyword-based SEO strategy, it does add a new search dynamic — the context of keywords. It's now important to research not only what keywords consumers are using but how they are using them. Your market research should reflect how people ask for information about products and services in general, not necessarily what they would type in a search engine. You can more effectively derive quality keywords from this research, thus improving both SEO and PPC effectiveness.

Create Your Website for the Consumer, Not the Search Engines

As always, you can’t go wrong with fresh, quality content. It's important to remember that search engines can't purchase goods and services, but consumers can. Be aware of keywords, but write your content for the end-user. As semantic search evolves, the gap between what consumers look for and what search engine web crawlers look for will undoubtedly close.

In conclusion, while there should be no initial SEO impact from Hummingbird, search engines will continue to favor quality content as semantic search evolves. Developers can drop their SEO “blinders” and create a website that will not only entice their target demographic but also soar to first-page search results.