How Google’s Algorithm Updates Affect Web Searches and Your Online Results

In their ongoing mission to offer their users better search results, Google some time ago unveiled a new algorithm – the largest change since 2001 according to some reports. The name of that algo is “Hummingbird,” and it caused some website owners to be quite concerned and others welcoming the change.

So, what does Google’s Hummingbird algorithm do?

google's algorithm updates Google’s Amit Singhal has stated, “With more complex queries, the algorithm can better understand concepts versus words as well as relationships between concepts.”

Moving to the present, with the advent of Hummingbird and other ongoing tweaks and changes, Google’s search algorithm is getting smarter and smarter at figuring out what people are really searching for. It is getting better at processing natural language. Obviously, this affects search results.

Note: We are not talking geek speak here. This blog is basically geared toward business owners looking to improve their overall rankings in the search engines.  If you need more advanced info on the subject, contact your webmaster who should be keeping current with Google’s ongoing updates.

google's algorithm updatesWith all the mobile devices out there and all the internet searches being done with them, Google had to accommodate the “conversational ” type of searches used by mobile users. When doing Google voice searches, many users ask longer questions to localize their searches and nail down more specifics. For example, “Where is the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts?” (On a smartphone with built-in GPS).

Or, “Where can I find women’s Skechers shoes in Seattle?”

Bottom line: People are using more natural language in their voice searches, as opposed to search operators and keywords, according to Google’s Matt Cutts.

The whole concept of a search query is taken into consideration, not just some keywords. So “where” in the Dunkin’ Donuts example above implies location. Hummingbird understands that and is not just going to throw up various web page listings just because they have “Dunkin’ Donuts” as a keyword in them. It takes all the words – the whole concept – of the query into consideration.  This searcher only wanted Dunkin’ Donuts within convenient reach of his smartphone’s GPS location.

What does this mean for website owners or copywriters?  Are keywords passé?

Although Google is tending to move away from generic keywords and sites that appear overly optimized instead of containing good relevant content, we believe it comes down to how you use “keywords.”  Hummingbird doesn’t appear to penalize sites. But it means that you have to make sure your pages contain real relevant content and more specific “long tail” keywords that get to the heart of the matter along with semantic copy that is fresh and original.

Google’s Algorithm Updates and Small Local Businesses

Some say that Hummingbird and other Google algo enhancements are especially good news for small local businesses, because you don’t have to compete for the more generic keywords against large companies dominating the web.

Someone searching “Where is a good building contractor” could easily find a local building contractor (thanks to smart phones with GPS) without that contractor having to compete nationally on the keyword, “building contractor,” especially if his company is listed in local online directories and he has the name of his city on his web pages and titles.  Note, however, that “building contractor” itself is still a generic keyword search term.  But, because of GPS, the searcher’s query is “automatically” made more specific by combing it with a location.

Many conversational search queries are attempting to drill down to specifics in their local area.  Others, of course, could be searching for specific things or information regardless of where they are to be found. And those specifics are often a long tail keyword or two.  And, again, Google is getting better at figuring out what searchers are actually looking for in those conversational searches.

Long Tail Keywords

“Long tail keywords” are basically drill-downs on more generic keywords. A crude example, is “women’s shoes” (generic) as opposed to “women’s Skecher shoes.” Even more of a drill-down would be “women’s Skecher shoes, Tampa.” Or even, “Women’s Skecher GOsleek Zip comfort shoes, Tampa.”  (If you were using voice search, you would have to enunciate that one very clearly!  😉

A long tail “keyword” like the last example there would make sense if you were marketing or offering something very specific and needed to separate it out from its more generic terms. Yes, you would get less overall traffic, but if that’s what you were actually selling, you would get more targeted traffic… more actual prospects for your very specific offering.

Semantic Copy

google's algorithm updates

“Semantic copy” is a term that has been in use for several years. It basically refers to fresh, relevant copy that is centered around your well-researched core keyword, and even includes some related keywords that are on topic – not on another disrelated topic. In other words, your keyword is surrounded, you could say, by relevant supporting copy on the same subject matter as research shows people are typing or “voicing” on the engines.

Taking that a step further… An artist who specializes in oil paintings of both Wild Animals and Landscapes could create two main pages, one for “Wildlife Oil Paintings” and one for “Oil Painting Landscapes” – providing research showed those terms had decent search traffic.

On each of those pages, she could weave the following words or terms into her copy: brush, oil, pastels, colors, frames, palette, etc.  On the “Animals” page she could also use terms such as: in the wild, natural habitat, lions, elephants, savanna, plains, wildlife preserves, endangered species, etc.  The landscapes page could include brush, oil, pastels, colors, frames, too, but would also contain supportive or related keywords such as nature scenes, vistas, panoramas, etc.

Page content that contains supportive copy for the core keyword or basic topic of that page, and includes terms and related keywords relevant to the subject at hand, would give Google or other search engines a realistic “understanding” of what that artist’s pages were about – artistic oil paintings of wildlife and scenic landscapes.  In other words, each page would answer up to, “What is the intent or nature of that page, what’s the concept being presented?”  What is that page really all about?” 

google's algorithm updatesGetting It Nailed

Now… if our artist knew that her best selling animal oil paintings were of lions, then she is drilling down from the generic “wildlife oil paintings” to the long tail “Oil Paintings of Lions” or “Oil Paintings of Lions in the Wild.”  If that’s what the bulk of her prospects are searching for, those are still keywords or keyword phrases, but long tail keywords.  And her page content would be structured around that and punch it up by placing that phrase in the page title, and in its body copy, and surrounding that phrase with supportive copy that is on topic and relevant to what her prospects would be searching for.

A Final Caveat: Google Is Still the 800 Pound Gorilla – You Need to Get Involved with Google Properties

One possible outcome of Hummingbird is that Google, in its quest to provide its users fast, exact answers to their queries, in some cases is simply supplying those answers right on its own pages.  This keeps its users on its own site instead of sending them elsewhere.  While this may seem like a “scary” scenario for some website owners who are primarily purveyors of information but not yet categorized as “authorities,” quality website content and backlinks from authoritative quality sites still count.

And this would be good news for our oil painting artist, wouldn’t it?  After all, Google is not going to be selling oil paintings directly…. So our artist needs to do whatever she can to create top quality content on her website so Google will send its users to her for their wildlife or landscape oil paintings.

But at the risk of sounding like a shill for Google, which we are not, here’s a “helpful hint”: Website owners and webmasters need to get involved with and utilize other Google properities such as Google Plus and Hangouts, and YouTube.  The sooner, the better.  Google is still the 800 pound gorilla, and looks like it’s trying to become the 900 pound gorilla.

Written by Bob Nelson

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to RESULTS PROFESSIONAL MARKETING and a clickable link back to this page.

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