When Google released The Panda and Penguin algorithm updates in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the reaction from affected website owners was immediate and loud due to the fact that practices such as distributing single articles that had been spun dozens of times and buying backlinks for $10 per thousand had finally become detectable and would no longer deliver the benefits of front page rankings for search results. The loudest voices after these algorithm updates were from the owners of sites that, in addition to losing the juice from blackballed practices, had also been penalized for going above and beyond Google’s tolerance level for SEO chicanery.
On the other hand, when Google rolled out its most sweeping algorithm change in years, referred to as Hummingbird in August of 2013, the search engine waited a month to make the formal announcement during which time barely anyone noticed. This seeming subtlety masked a directional change in how Google interprets search queries, which may not have rocked rankings as much as Panda and Penguin, but may be affecting the rankings of your web pages now.
Prior to the Hummingbird algorithm change, Google’s algorithm would parse each word in a search term and deliver results based on the web pages that had content containing those words. Pages that had the exact sequence of words in the query would typically rank the highest while pages that contained the words in the search term, but not in sequence, would be ranked at the next level down from exact matches. This methodology, much to Google’s dismay, could be gamed by stuffing content with high percentages of keywords that often made the text difficult if not impossible to comprehend, but high rankings would still be granted.
The Hummingbird algorithm takes a different approach; by assessing search terms in the context of a question, the search engine now returns web pages that are seen as delivering the best answers to that question. If your web page rankings have suffered since the Hummingbird algorithm rollout, there are several actions you can take to rehabilitate them, including:
Replace keyword research with finding the questions your customers are most likely to ask when they search for the products/services offered by your business – Only by knowing these questions can you develop content that provides relevant answers.
Deliver copious volumes of information – When answering these questions, be generous with your information and invite readers learn more on additional pages within the site. This action will help your SEO efforts while also helping to sell the products being researched.
Develop new content consistently – This has always been a staple of Google’s algorithms, but it’s more important than ever now. Plus, the more you publish, the more questions your site can answer.
SEO is all about content now. By delivering content that answers questions while delivering information and value, your SEO rehabilitation will have begun.