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Hummingbird for Dummies: What Does It Mean for My Business?

So you’re hearing all this talk about Google’s biggest algorithm overhaul since 2001, with terms like “semantic keywords” and “writing for user intent” being thrown around more than every Twitter user’s opinion on Miley Cyrus. But what on earth does this Hummingbird thing mean for your business, anyway?

If you’re a player in the online world (which if you’re reading this, you most likely are), quite frankly it means a lot. Rather than following the current trend of explaining this latest algorithm with a wishy washy filter of what it might mean for the future of SEO, let us show you two examples of Hummingbird-influenced traffic results; the good and the bad (and maybe a bit of the ugly).

Hummingbird does its worst

First things first; although Google announced Hummingbird on September 26, there’s a lot of conjecture that it had been rolled out between August 20-22. Enter stage right our first example: an Analytics snapshot of a website that undoubtedly was paid a visit by Mr Hummingbird.

An Analytics snapshot of a website that undoubtedly was paid a visit by Mr Hummingbird

Bam; just like that it dropped from an average of 50 organic clicks per day to only 10 or less per day. So what can we learn from this graph? This particular example is taken from a website that follows a very basic, 3 page format. The internal linking is set up well, the design looks great, and the perfect keywords have been identified and are being targeted through content. So what’s the go?

As far as what we know about Hummingbird goes, the big miss on this particular website is that the content gives users nothing. The entire website has around 750 words of content included on it, but within that there isn’t even a fleeting mention about things like how much their services cost, how long they’ll take to complete a typical job, or even what makes them really stand out from other similar companies.

The kind of information being referred to here is obviously going to differ between companies, but the main fact remains: you should be using your content to really assist whoever is viewing your website.

Think about it like this; when someone calls or emails an enquiry to you, what are the main questions they ask you? If they’re asking you that directly, you can bet they’re asking those questions to the ultimate forum of answers, aka Google, first. And Google is only ever as good at answering questions as the websites it offers up on the silver platter that is first page results, so how much of a positive impact on your SEO results do you think you can get by giving them what they want and answering those questions on your website?

Hummingbird rewards good work, too

Hummingbird seems to have been quite aptly named with the amount of “humming” that has been stirred up among SEO gurus on what action to take next. While it’s all good and well to see an example of a website that seems to have been punished by the latest algorithm for not being all that helpful to users, what can an example of someone who has done good work show?

The general trend being seen is that, surprise surprise, websites with FAQs and blogs that answer specific questions tend to be doing well after August 20. Take the following screenshot, for example, which shows the kind of keywords driving a whole heap of traffic to a page that answers questions about when different flowers are in season:

The kind of keywords driving a whole heap of traffic to a page that answers questions about when different flowers are in season.

The content on this page is by no means overly optimised, hardly mentioning keywords at all. What it does do is address common questions that people have about flower seasonality in an informative, accurate, and interesting manner.

Users ask Google a question, Hummingbird is designed to recognise which page can answer that question best, and voila, Google rewards those pages with good organic search results.

In other words, while you’re thinking about what kinds of questions you can answer in the various pages on your website, think about whether any of those questions are specific enough to warrant a dedicated FAQs page or even building out a blog section.

OK, here’s the ugly

It sounds unbelievably simple, and in a way it is. Google is putting all of its focus on making sure their users get the best experience possible, and if your website can align yourself with that vision you’re sure to benefit.

At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that making these changes are going to give you magical overnight results. It’s about putting effort into your online marketing campaign, sticking at it, and continuing to improve the way you serve the people who land on your website.

Get that right, and the Hummingbird will start to seem less scary and more … well … like a harmless little bird!

Hummingbird will start to seem less scary and more ... well … like a harmless little bird!

Awww, he’s not so bad, is he?