Google recently released the “Hummingbird” algorithm update, sending a shockwave of panic (though really unnecessary) through the SEO and digital marketing world.
As an attorney, you may be wondering what a tiny, shimmering bird known for it’s pollination tactics has to do with where your firm’s ranking on the search engines results page. So, with the help of a recent article from Search Engine Land, we’re going to explore what you need to know about Hummingbird and how it could be affecting your firm’s web presence.
First, the name: Google has indicated that “Hummingbird” refers to the speed and precision of the new update.
Hummingbird was released sometime in late August or early September. Google did not announce the update until late September, however. (Sneaky, eh?)
If anyone is telling you Google PageRank is now a thing of the past, they’ve been severely misled. PageRank is in fact one of over 200 major factors that Hummingbird uses to return search results. The updated algorithm looks at PageRank alongside other factors (title tags, keywords, quality of links, quality of content, etc.).
According to Google, this is the largest change to the algorithm since 2010, when the “Caffeine Update” was introduced. Even then, the change was mainly for helping Google index better information. In fact, Google search chief Amit Singhal told Search Engine Land that perhaps we must go back to 2001 to see such a dramatic rewrite as Hummingbird.
I know what you’re thinking—what about those other animals that I’ve heard about? Panda? Penguin? While you contemplate whether Google has a small zoo located in their Mountain View, California, headquarters, please also understand these were updates and changes to the old algorithm. Hummingbird is a brand new engine—a replacement, if you will—although it does contain some components of Penguin, Panda, and the old algorithm.
Google indicated that “conversational search” is the search activity most aided by the new update. When typing (or speaking) into search engines, many users find it more natural to speak conversationally—not in the form of static, targeted keywords.
For example, let’s say a user types, “What’s the closest law firm to my home?” Traditional search engines would try to find words that tie to the search. Now, Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may understand where exactly your home is (if you’ve shared it with Google) and that by “place” you actually want a physical address.
In short, Hummingbird is paying more attention to the entire query to find contextual meaning, not just particular words.
Now, the tough part is finding out if it works. Basically, we have to take Google’s word for it that we should embrace Hummingbird for the better.
What do you really want to know? Well, first of all, Hummingbird did not kill the value of SEO. Google even said there’s nothing new or different SEO-wise to worry about, just keep doing what they have been pushing for years: create original, high-quality content.
If you haven’t lost traffic to your firm’s site, you’ve made it through the Hummingbird trenches without injury—congratulations. If you were going to have problems, you would have seen them by now (the update did come out awhile ago, remember).
If your firm’s site did lose traffic, perhaps it was related to Hummingbird. Google has indicated, though, that it could be due to other algorithm tweaks, which is always being improved. There’s no need to panic if you’re doing things the right way: creating quality content, maintaining a consistent presence, and avoiding spammy or black-hat tactics.
If you have questions about how Hummingbird has affected your law firm website’s search ranking or traffic, feel free to reach out to the GNGF team.
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