Google’s recent release of its new search algorithm Hummingbird, along with the announcement that all Google searches are now encrypted, has raised a lot of discussion and concerns regarding website rankings and SEO practises.

online search seo

While these two changes are independent, they both reflect a key shift away from focusing on keywords.

Hummingbirds’ moving away from keyword search to semantic search is an important and meaningful change for users. Google is attempting to provide a more valuable and personalised search based on the user’s query. Think of Apple’s siri and how it responds to voice queries as an example of semantic (or conversational) search.

As an example of this change, if you typed “buy a suit at Myer”, previously Google would have pulled out the keywords, “buy”, “suit” and “Myer” and provided a list of results including different places you can buy suits and the Myer home page. Now with Hummingbird, Google should look at your query as a whole and return a link to the suits page on the Myer website where you can purchase them.

Google’s encryption of all search traffic, which therefore removes keyword search data from web reporting, will impact many current SEO reports which use top organic keyword search terms as a core element of analysis and as a way of showing return on investment.

How do these Google changes impact your website rankings and SEO practises? This all depends on your current strategies, but if you already follow proven and Google encouraged practises, any negative impact should be minimal or none.  The key elements of recommended (“white hat”) SEO have not changed.

  • Regularly develop good and engaging content onsite. Focus on content that is valuable to your target market, answers key questions they may have and promote your expertise in your industry.
  • Socially share content. Use social media, business and personal connections and industry / related websites.
  • Use analytics to focus on Goals and Conversions rather than keywords. These are the outcomes you want and are therefore the best way to track your online success and return on investment.

Google’s recent changes are a positive improvement to not only end users, but to website owners and SEO professionals who implement proven “white hat” SEO strategies and they should be a welcome and significant change for all.