Hummingbird or Ho-Hum

So each time Google announces the release of an update to it’s ranking algorithm, there is generally widespread panic and pandemonium among the SEO bloggers that want to entice you scramble your SEO basket and blindly follow their newest recommendations.  The latest release by Google is named Hummingbird.  The questions is will Hummingbird prove to be revolutionary and change the search game, or is it a major set of on-going tweaks by Google that are finally wrapped up in a name?  Several early responses to the Hummingbird update have wildly proclaimed that “Keywords are Dead!”.

How Dead are Keywords?

Whenever you evaluate a blog article, on any topic really, but in this case SEO, put on your common sense filters and view it from the eyes of actions your customers, and target customers, take when searching online.  So, “Keywords are Dead!”, really?  Let’s think this one through.  Hummingbird has been described, including by spokespeople from Google, as a “natural language update”.  That is, search results will match to natural language phrases, not just to specific words matching between search terms and content.  So how will this change the search behavior of your target market?  Likely not at all.  99% of the population (probably more like 99.9999%) don’t pay attention to when Google changes their search formulas, so they continue to search for products, and information, and entertainment, by typing into the search bar, what they are seeking.  What is changing, behind the scenes, is how Google matches what was entered to what they feel is the most relevant content.  So, people (your market is made of people, right) will continue to enter search terms (a.k.a. keywords) into the search box and hit submit.  Keywords are dead?  No, not at all. Don’t be fooled by hype.  Keywords and search terms live on, how Google handles them is what has changed.

Google is About Content

No matter what you think of the past Google algorithm changes, Panda, Penguin, EMD, and now Hummingbird, watch the trends in what they say about what’s important now in search.  All these changes reveal a couple of key trends, a trend towards quality authentic content, and a trend towards making search results relevant to the way people naturally talk and write.  Match your content to the language of your market and you have taken a step towards what Google rewards.