By Evan Wright
Every so often Google will shock the web-based world with an update to the search ranking algorithm. In the past, even minor updates would have a huge impact on how well a website would rank and what queries websites would be able rank for. Terms like keyword density and back-linking would be some of the most important aspects of a website ranking campaign. With the emergence of Google’s new Hummingbird search algorithm, all of that is about to change.
Google’s automated ranking system is becoming more about intent and less about keyword relevance. Recent changes have lead to a shift in how webpages are evaluated. It use to be that individual keywords and short phrases were used to rank the content of a website. Hummingbird is the next level of semantic evolution. Entire search phrases and long tailed keywords will soon be the new norm of search engine optimization.
Use this as an example: An SEO trying to get a page about boiling eggs to rank would provide plenty of content containing words like “egg, yolk, shell, boil”. They may even add some phrases such as “boiling eggs, hard boiled eggs, egg preparation” and other relevant terms. Hummingbird focuses less on these short, choppy keywords and phrases, and more about the actual content matching up with the intent of an egg-minded user.
Phrases such as “How to hard boil eggs” or “The best way to boil a dozen eggs” will become much more important to the ranking process. A user is not looking for a site containing the words egg, yolk, and boil 20 times without relevant information. They are looking for a site that gives meaningful insight and direction into the desired topic. The Hummingbird algorithm will view content through the perceived user’s eyes.
Content is King
The good news for you as a website owner is that if you have been generating great content, while titling and describing it as such, search engine optimization will remain the same, if not get easier for you. Google is looking to match up high quality content with the right user, so the job of white hat SEO providers should become simpler as time goes on. However, it is going to become much more difficult to trick Google with web spam tactics. In my egg example above, an individual trying to shoehorn keywords like egg and boil into the same paragraph ten times will find themselves falling into the dregs of search ranking. Cheap tactics are going provide much less value than they currently do under Hummingbird.
Google’s algorithm is definitely becoming more of a humanistic reasoning engine, and less of a computer based equation machine. The best way for your business to grow during this process is to start thinking of ranking on Google as dealing with a living, breathing, human customer.
If a customer were to walk in your door and start seeing signs with single words or have a sales associate explain what products you offer using a string of one or two word responses, they would not have a clear idea of what you are offering, and they would likely not be satisfied with what you are trying to provide. The same is true with Google. You need to plainly explain what your page is about with a descriptive title and description with are not stuffed with meaningless keywords.
Secondly, it is imperative to create high quality content that directly matches what your title says your page is about. A mall map that had store titles not matching the physical establishments would be very difficult for a consumer to navigate, and the Google bots are your consumers for search ranking. Make it easier on Google and yourself by providing meaningful titles pointing to relevant and descriptive content. The Google machine is learning at an impressive rate and as sellers we must grow as well.