Google's Hummingbird is giving SEO GERD

Have you noticed that your web traffic seems to have fallen in the past month?  If not, you're lucky.  If so, don't blame Google's major overhaul of it's search algorithm, "Hummingbird." Blame your content instead.  And if you're and SEO expert, this might help.

 As I've said about previous upgrades, Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird is less concerned with keywords as it is with context.  But the first two are focused on the engagement searchers have with content.  Hummingbird is all about context.

(I find this remarkably coincidental that The Age of Context, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel came out this month in time for this announcement from Google.  Well Played guys.) 

So what does "all this context stuff" have to do with you?  Here's a brief explanation from Danny Sullivan at

"Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.

In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words."

Now, when you are talking about iPhones and big consumer issues, it might be easier to find information, right?  If we're talking about something like CAE design tools, it's a different story, right? Nope.

This morning I decided to do a search using the new capabilities.  I cleared the history and cookies in Chrome.  Then I initiated voice search on my computer and asked, "What are the best tools for designing microprocessors?"  After I got the results I asked a second question. "Where can I find the best tools for designing microprocessors."

What do you think the answers were?  Did it come up with links to the number one design automation vendor Synopsys?  Nope? How about any of the other top five vendors? Nope.

Number one was, a magazine.  Number two was ARM, Ltd.  That was followed by a couple of academic sites, and then Texas Instruments.  To find the first reference to a design tool vendor I had to go to the second page (Synopsys) and gave up looking after the 4th page (Atmel was the only company mentioned there).

Do you see the problem? 

Keywords have virtually no value in modern search, unless, of course, you are ready to use them in advertising programs that you pay Google for.  Customers that deal with you regularly might find you in searches, but customers who don't are never going to see you.

Dr. Dobbs Journal shows up first because the content it has is the best source of answers to the question I asked.  ARM comes in second (and good for them) because it's also a place to go to answer that question.  For you to make the best use of search technology, you have to be darn sure of what kind of questions your customers are asking, and then have the right answers for them.  How do you do that? Find someone who isn't drinking your Kool-aid to research and write content that will show up in the searches.

Call us at Footwasher Media.  That's what we do.