Covario’s Point of View on Hummingbird and How to Maximize SEO for It

Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. It’s very much like the computer I dreamt about as a child growing up in India, glued to our black-and-white TV for every episode of Star Trek. I imagined a future where a starship computer would be able to answer any question I might ask, instantly. Today, we’re closer to that dream than I ever thought possible during my working life.” – Amit Singhal, senior vice president, Google Search, Aug. 8, 2012

Google announced Sept. 26, 2013 an update to its search engine by the name Hummingbird, which ironically is the only bird that can fly backwards, in the garage where the company was founded 15 years ago.  This indexing update was launched approximately a month prior to enhance the Caffeine ranking update from 2010, with an estimated impact on 90 percent of all searches.  Covario foresaw an update of this nature, and Hummingbird reinforces prior recommendations provided to clients highlighted in this POV.

What is Hummingbird?

Hummingbird’s core is a deeper focus on voice and intent with increased query expansion because it better understands longer natural language queries and environmental context.  This aligns to a patent Google was granted on Sept. 17, 2013 – Synonym Identification Based on Co-Occurring Items.

google synonym update

This allows Google to handle more complex search queries, beyond a strict keyword basis, with synonym understanding and previous personalized history across devices.  This is moving closer to Larry Page’s dream of a Star Trek Majel computer. We are advising clients to move toward this vision by having smarter content, semantic coding, and websites aligned to user intent on whatever device type with an approach we call Nexus SEO.

Attracting Hummingbird to Your Site google hummingbird update

  •  Semantically delineate your code using microformats from
    • Open Graph tags are prioritized now to gain entry into Google’s Knowledge Graph.
  • Instead of your website responding to the user’s device, dynamically serve content based on the user’s intent that enhances all user experiences, including local and mobile.
    • Investigate current mobile redesign opportunities that could embrace dynamic serving over responsive design.
  • Provide smarter content that answers current and contextually aware questions that is also socially sharable.
    • Include product reviews and educational content that can speak in a natural language used to produce voice search results.
  • Provide minimized social sharing options based on the user’s device.
    • e.g. Pinterest prominence on tablets
  • Better leverage Google+ for Authorship and inclusion into Google’s Knowledge Graph, as well Google Now Cards.
    • Google Publisher is a great place to start with educational content.
  • Better leverage Google AdWords for attracting potential customers based on their natural language.
    • Add keywords to match what users are actually saying or speaking into the search bar.

Final thoughts…

Google is building beyond search by moving toward conversations, which allows more engagement with its portals to place advertising.  Natural language search behavior will help users go beyond just plugging a few keywords into a search box and will instead say or type exactly what they are looking for. For advertising (Google AdWords) it will be important to watch your search query reports and add related queries into your keyword lists. As for owned media, it is important to integrate your site into these conversations by not only answering your users’ questions but engaging them with timely location and device-aware content.  For example, provide information about the proximity and availability of your products.  This will not only keep you in the conversation with Google, but also your customers’ business conversations online and offline.

google search timeline

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