The online community is all aflutter with the latest and most extensive Google algorithm update ever. It is called Hummingbird.

The online chaos comes as no surprise. Every time that Google makes changes that affect search engine rankings, webmasters around the world flap their arms in panic. And for good reason. Google is still the most widely used search engine on the planet with Bing and Yahoo following closely behind. Previous updates of Panda and Penguin came sweeping changes to online marketing techniques that involved several aspects of search engine optimization. Hummingbird affects much, much more.

Panda 2011

The Panda update of February 2013 focused mainly on improving the quality of information that was being offered on the Internet. Websites that were simply using keyword stuffing techniques in order to increase page rankings were now being penalized for delivering such low-quality and shallow content. Google had long been aware that many online marketers were simply using spinning techniques of previously written content, placing poorly written information on their websites as a quick and cheap way of rising in the ranks. Panda was an algorithm change targeted of these types of “content farms” that offered spammy and often poorly worded content that was of little relevance to the reader.

Penguin 2012

Next came Penguin in April 2012. Furthering their efforts to punish these less than reputable site owners, this time the Google algorithms were slightly manipulated to focus on linking practices as they related to Google rankings. The term “bad links” became a regular part of daily online chatter as Google began a crackdown on those who were buying or selling irrelevant links in another dishonest attempt to boost page rankings. This meant that a website offering ‘chimney sweeping services” could no longer hide a link in a blog post about “baseball cards” without witnessing the wrath of Google. Once again, webmasters were scrambling to clean up their act.

Hummingbird 2013

As is human nature, everyone is always trying to look for shortcuts to success. Panda and Penguin were warning bells sounded by Google that they were on a mission to clean up the Internet. Still, many online entrepreneurs did not take heed of these warnings. The Hummingbird update of November 2013 was the largest revision ever. Whereas Panda and Penguin only negatively affected approximately 15% of the online community, Hummingbird is already estimated to have affected over 90% of all search engine queries in only its first month of release. If you were to compare the Internet to the engine of a car, Panda would be similar to getting an oil change and Penguin would be equated to getting a new tune-up. Hummingbird replaces the engine entirely.

The Effects of Mobile Media

There are those on the Internet who cringe whenever Google makes any update to their analytics, accusing the search engine of randomly changing the rules on a whim just to flex their online muscle. But this is not entirely fair. In just the past few years, the use of smartphones has increased at an alarming rate. Yelp has conducted research that shows more than 50% of all online searches now begin on smartphones. The need for “conversational search requests” is one of the major factors that came into play with the latest Google revamp. People speaking into their cell phones tend to talk in complete sentences. “Where is the nearest Starbucks?” is a typical example. Hummingbird is designed to focus more on the meaning of the words and phrases rather than on the actual keywords themselves, taking into consideration location and slang terminology, among other verbal cues.

Other Hummingbird Changes

Since Google was already rewriting most of the algorithms to allow for a more natural speech pattern recognition, they also decided to readdress the previous issues of Panda and Penguin. Content is king! The articles, blogs, and websites must now offer content that is deemed relevant and helpful to the consumer-at-large. Instead of simply being stopped from rising in the rankings if you do not follow the rules, webmasters immediately began to see sharp drops to their rankings essentially overnight.

In an effort to push this point further, Google Authorship is now a prerequisite for online credibility. This can be achieved in a number of ways, perhaps by linking your content to reputable online resources from where your information is originally supported or by establishing yourself as an expert in your field and then linking everything back to your Google+ profile. The jury is still out, but one thing is for certain. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is being replaced by SMO (Social Media Optimization). If you want those smartphones to instantly connect to your website, you are going to have to conform to the new Hummingbird rules.

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