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What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for your Current Content Strategy

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When Google announced on September 26th that it had released an update titled Hummingbird in late August 2013, the biggest surprise was that, despite the broad scope of the algorithm changes, the effects had not been noticed during the approximately five weeks between the rollout and the announcement. Considering that the previous two updates, code named Panda and Penguin had caused dramatic and sudden negative changes in page rankings for a wide variety of websites, the new update had slipped in under the radar which provided a second surprise in that the modifications that were introduced were considered to be the most sweeping changes in the search engine’s ranking formula since the release of the Caffeine update in 2009.
 
The reason for the lack of impact on rankings, as explained by Google representatives in the days following the announcement, is that the modifications in the new update focus on improving search results for two types of queries that are growing rapidly as a whole but do not represent large search numbers for individual components; complex queries that are conducted by voice command on mobile devices. Prior to the update, Google’s process for assessing spoken or keyed searches focused on keywords while ignoring other words in the query. Hummingbird changes that process by assessing each word in the context of the question. One of the primary outcomes of this change is that searches using long tail keywords will generate results that are far more likely to present relevant content.      
 
For ecommerce businesses, the Hummingbird update provides a huge opportunity to capitalize on two consumer behaviors simultaneously:
 
* The tendency of consumers to purchase items that they have researched on their mobile devices – According to a Google/Nielsen survey, more than 4 out of 5 consumers submit product queries with the intention of making a purchase within 24 hours.
* The typical online search process of consumers – Consumers generally start product searches with shorter search terms and then lengthen them as they get closer to making a purchase. By generating content that delivers solutions/answers to long tail queries, a business can become very visible on results pages at precisely the point at which consumers are preparing to make a purchase.     
 
The companies that will be in the best position to capitalize on these converging trends will be generating content that is recognized as a solution to consumers’ search queries. It’s a huge opportunity, and Google wants to help.
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