MindFire Communications, Inc.
Hello Hummingbird, goodbye Google keyword data
November 1, 2013 | Inga Rundquist

Google has made some major changes in the past months and it’s important we pay attention. Why? Because Google is the world’s largest search engine and the vast majority of visitors to your website probably used Google to find it!


Google’s new search algorithm is called "Hummingbird,” and it is one we should get to know well.

Let’s start with the basics. An algorithm is a recipe Google uses to sort through billions of web pages and other information in order to return what it believes are the best answers to your search. There are reportedly more than 200 major ingredients that go into the Hummingbird recipe.

Hummingbird is designed to focus on the meaning behind the words in your searches. Google’s end goal is to go beyond simply finding pages that contain those same words, and actually get better at figuring out what you’re looking for and answering those questions.

What does that mean for us marketers?

As always, Google recommends having original, high-quality fresh content on your site. The new algorithm is designed to help Google process the information on your site in new and hopefully better ways by focusing on the individual’s search intent instead of specific keywords.

As a result it is more important than ever to have content on your site that will resonate with your audience and represents that type of information they’re looking for when they’re making a buying decision about your product or service. In other words – the focus is less on keywords and more on quality content as a whole.

What’s up with encrypted search that everyone is talking about?

Shortly before the release of Hummingbird, Google revealed it would encrypt all search activity (except for clicks on ads).

As a result of this encryption, when a user goes to Google to search, they are automatically redirected to the https:// version of their Google domain of choice. If you conduct a search on Google, it will route the click to the website through a redirect so that the website you land on has no idea what actual keywords you found the website under, and what keywords were used to bring you there. (Still with us?)

This means that as marketers we will see a lot more traffic coming from the diabolical "(not provided)” source in Google Analytics as opposed to the actual search terms people are using to arrive at your site. (This is a big deal. If you don’t believe us just check out this site: http://www.notprovidedcount.com. )

New challenges

As search marketers, we now have a number of challenges to overcome:

  1. It’s going to get harder to figure out what searchers were looking for when they land on your site. As a result, we need to figure out new ways to help drive and track organic search traffic.
  2. How will we know what website content is striking a cord with our audience? We need to find new ways to understand how customers (searchers) perceive your brand and content. What pages have the most inbound traffic from organic search? What type of information is available on those pages?
  3. As it becomes more difficult to determine what searchers are looking for when they arrive on one of your web pages, how do we determine if they found what they’re looking for? Did they leave immediately? Did they share the content?

Bottom line

The way to collect, analyze and report website traffic and success needs to change. While there are still lots of questions surrounding the overall impact of Hummingbird and search encryption, here are some things we think will help:

  • Analyze on-site searches to get a better sense of what people are looking for on your site.
  • Look at your non-Google traffic, such as Bing, for guidance.
  • Use Google AdWords to determine the value of either high traffic keywords, or keywords you suspect are the ones that are converting well.
  • Look at your historical data. What has changed in the last month?
  • If you see a spike in traffic, use Google Trends to give you an idea of what exactly it is that is trending that is bringing you traffic.
  • If Google is trying to understand the meaning behind search words, pages with Q&As will likely become very important. What questions are your customers asking? Make sure you answer all potential questions on your site.
  • Become an authority in your industry by publishing useful content on a regular basis.
  • Semantic mark-up may begin to confer an advantage when it comes to helping index information for products and services.
  • Content should not be left insolation but shared across social networks via influencers.

As always, if you have questions, give us a jingle!

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