It sounds oxymoronic, but Hummingbird, the most recent Google update, will profoundly influence SEO business in subtle ways. In short, Google is aiming to make their web searches more user-friendly and limit unfair SEO practices—such as “black hat” techniques—that enable websites to gain an unfair advantage over others in search results. In other words, Hummingbird’s goal is to help users find more of “exactly” what they are looking for from a collection of more equally represented websites. As in many other markets, Hummingbird does affect SEO business in India—here’s how.
Hummingbird’s goal is to determine user intent behind user searches rather than just rely on their keywords. This is a totally new, unique approach to search engines. Ultimately, Google will now try to provide results for what they “think” users are trying to search for and make searching “more like a conversation between two people.”
The new update attempts to provide very specific results by keeping records of what someone’s previous searches were and attempting to link those searches. For example, to mimic natural conversation, if someone uses Google to search for the keyword “Dubai” and then “where is it located” in a separate search, both searches will be linked. The word “It” in the second search will be linked with earlier search of “Dubai” to provide appropriate results. Because of the reduced importance of keywords, then, SEO strategy—who’s bread and butter is keywords—will need to adapt. We’ll have more info on this later.
Another key element to Hummingbird is how it can accommodate searches with a mobile phone. For example, in the words of Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, “You can pull up your phone and say to Google: ‘Tell me about Impressionist artists.’ You’ll see who the artists are, and you can dive in to learn more about each of them and explore their most famous works.” The search results through Hummingbird are intended to better facilitate the ways in which people are now searching on the Internet.
Finally, Maintaining Google’s goal of having specific information on their users, Hummingbird will also keep information on the user’s location and other important content.
Hummingbird Replaces Panda and Penguin Updates
Towards the middle of 2013, Google unveiled their Panda and Penguin updates. In Google’s words, Panda was created to decrease rankings for “low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.” In reducing rankings for the “low-quality sites,” Panda was conversely intended to “provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”
The Penguin update, which was unveiled around the same time as Panda, was an algorithm update targeted at “webspam,” or sites that violated Google’s quality guidelines.
Ultimately, however, Panda and Penguin were almost like new parts added to the old search engine—Hummingbird is more like a complete engine replacement. Hummingbird seeks to fulfill the same basic tasks as the previous two updates—by using some of their elements—but quicker and with more precision. The last major overhaul of this size for Google was in 2010 with Google Caffeine.
How Will Hummingbird Affect SEO in India?
Just as Panda and Penguin favored content that squared with Google guidelines for “useful, informative and unique web content, ”Hummingbird does the same. Designers, writers, and webmasters in India who are creating original, helpful, and fairly promoted content on the web will find no problems with Hummingbird. In fact, these people should see an increase in their traffic.
On the contrary, people who “spam” the Internet with content that is not original, unique, or helpful will see their websites fall in ranking. In particular, Indian businesses who use black hat SEO techniques—which are banned by Google—to get higher search engine on their websites will be more likely to see Google take action against them. In other words, Hummingbird will lead websites that used black hat SEO tactics to be penalized or removed under Manual Spam Action.
As Hummingbird becomes better understood, Indian SEO businesses will need to rely more on strong content and less on keywords. They’ll likely need to find additional ways to adapt and excel in the new market.