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The Hummingbird Update: The Lessons for Digital Marketers

Posted by Ken Wisnefski on September 30th, 2013 at 11:58 am

Google, the world’s top search engine, grabbed headlines throughout the business and technology communities on Thursday when they unveiled their largest algorithm update since 2001. The change, which is being dubbed the Hummingbird update, had businesses around the globe bracing for the worst as they waited to see how much their Internet marketing efforts would be impacted. As it turns out, Google soon revealed they had actually updated their algorithm a few months prior to the announcement. The news left many to see that Google may have changed the way they sort through the Internet, but they had not changed the things they prioritized.

The term "hummingbird" was chosen by Google to represent the preciseness and speed of the algorithm update. The search engine giant that turned 15 on Friday understood that their audience was expecting more of the search engine than ever before and new technology was the biggest reason why. With voice activated phones and tablets, conversational searches are no longer the exception to the norm. Under the old algorithm, Google didn’t compute that place probably meant a brick and mortar store. Now, if you ask where the best place to buy furniture is, Google will provide the highest quality furniture stores located in your area.

In addition to helping users, the algorithm update provides great opportunities for digital marketers looking to help small businesses move up in the rankings. There will always be a desire and definitive value for the generic keywords but it can take years to move the rankings for these competitive terms. However, marketers can begin to see more benefit from phrase related searches. Users have gotten more intelligent, so has the way they search. This gives the mortgage broker in Des Moines, Iowa more of a chance to compete against the LendingTree.com’s of the world because it is likely people will search more for "best mortgage rates offered in Iowa" than in the past searching for "mortgage rates".

When the Panda and Penguin updates were made to the Google algorithm, businesses were either rewarded for their ethical SEO practices or harshly penalized for trying to cheat the system. The same rules still apply in the world of Internet marketing. Companies that make a concerted effort to produce unique and engaging content while having plenty of quality links from authoritative websites will flourish. The days of quick ranking surges brought on by keyword stuffing and purchased links are over. Businesses now must rely on well-rounded Internet marketing campaigns that put their focus solely on building up the brand and meeting the demands of the people.

Google is once again showing digital marketers that their updates will be made to enhance the user experience. In other words, those in the digital marketing agency shouldn’t be focused on positioning their clients to best serve the needs of Google; they should be working to make their client’s brand the foremost authority in their industry.  Whether that means ranking for phrases like cosmetic dentist in Sacramento or pizza shop in Albuquerque, the opportunities to capitalize on are nearly endless for marketers creative enough to put their clients in the best positions.

The Hummingbird update is just the latest in what will be a continuous series of changes to the Google algorithm.  It’s important for digital marketers to ensure their clients that these updates are all working in their favor. While the industry certainly isn’t dying, it is evolving. It’s going to take time to have clients outranking the giants of their industry, but Hummingbird puts businesses in line to reach page one for the conversational terms that can drive in local business. At the end of the day, conversions are the most important thing for any business. With the knowledge gained from the Hummingbird update, opportunities abound for digital marketers looking to have their clients’ campaigns take flight.

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