Hummingbird = forget keywords, think great content pages

For those of you don’t spend your days reading marketing news blogs, let me start by explaining what Hummingbird is.

In late September Google announced it had launched a COMPLETELY NEW search algorithm, called Hummingbird because it’s precise and fast. Key facts you need to know:

  1. This is the algorithm that determines what appears on the search engines results pages (SERPs) when someone enters a search on Google
  2. Google have 100% replaced the old algorithm (the one that had all the penguin, and farmer updates) with a brand spanking new algorithm
  3. Hummingbird was live throughout September, and basically no one realised until Google told us. So there’s no immediate big impact to watch out for

What makes Hummingbird different?

To be honest no one is yet 100% sure – the SEO gurus have only been analysing this one for a week as I write this, so we don’t yet know exactly how it changes things. But, it’s definitely a step further along Google’s path to serving each of us with the perfect results every time.

What that means is that Hummingbird is designed to serve up better results, better results for short searches, and long searches. It’s much better at understanding what a Page (on your website) is about, and relating that to a conversational search phrase. That’s what we call “semantic search” – the simplest way to think about it is that Google is now providing us with answers rather than results.

That is great news, because it means great websites that really serve the needs of their target market will flourish. But if you have a content-poor website you’re going to need start working on some content, quickly.

In a Hummingbird world, how does an eCommerce site drive more search traffic?

First up let’s rephrase that – you’re after conversions NOT traffic. So the question should really be – “in a Hummingbird world, how does an eCommerce site drive lots of great converting traffic from Google”.

Great Content

The answer is to create pages on the website that provide the customers / visitors with information they want, and information they need. Each of those pages is what we refer to as “content”, and that includes every page on your website.

Above I explain that you should think about Google providing answers rather than results – so you need to think about the questions your visitors want answered and make sure you have pages that answer those questions – usefully and in detail. To succeed in search as an eCommerce business you need great product pages, as well as a good quality blog (for some examples of great product pages see Firebox, and last month’s website review of

Don’t do short-term Link Building

Google is getting very good at penalising sites for having links from the wrong places. Those wrong places tend to be the sites it is easy to get links on – so don’t ask anyone to link to you.

Instead create great content that people will want to link to – attract the links to your site. Links remain important, but you only want the best quality ones.

Use Social Media to spread your content

Mentions of your business name, and links to your site’s pages are really important to grow your reputation with Google – so make sure you’re publicising your great content on the key social media engines, and encouraging your customers and site visitors to do the same.

You want to be talked about.

Do not silo your social media, content, and search teams – they have to work together if you want to be successful.

Have a well structured site that keeps expanding

Make sure your great content is easy to find, and correctly supplied to Google (blog on that coming up soon, but briefly it means only the right pages getting into the Google index, and using Webmaster Tools).

Keep creating more great content. You can’t just add a few FAQ pages and have done with it. You’ve got to add more new content (product pages, blog posts etc) every month.

Stop worrying about rankings and keywords

That time has passed – now you need to concentrate on creating pages that attract traffic – great content that attracts visitors.

So instead of reporting on keyword performance from Google Analytics (which you can’t anymore anyway), you need to report on entrance pages – how many, and how much are they attracting?


Have you seen any impact from Hummingbird? Are you using Content and Social campaigns that are paying off? Please add your thoughts below.