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Hummingbird: Making Long-Tail Search Fly?

The introduction of Google Hummingbird caused quite a stir, with many businesses having to completely adapt the way that they approach search engine optimisation.

This short post will introduce you to long-tail search strategy and give you an idea of how Google have changed this particular facet of the web design industry.

Written By
Dan Partridge

What are Long-Tail Keywords?

A keyword is quite simply a word or phrase which helps a search engine identify what your website is about. It will then point people who are searching for those phrases towards your website. It’s therefore really important that you develop a keyword strategy. This will help you to ensure that your website is optimized for the right keywords that will help you to connect with potential customers.

However, in most industries this isn’t straightforward. In our world, for example, there are literally tens of thousands of website design companies who are competing for a handful of spots on page #1 of Google. If you’re just starting out, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to attract much traffic for search terms like “web design” or “website design company” simply because there is so much competition from established websites.

This is why long-tail keywords are so important.

A long-tail keyword is much longer than a ‘standard’ keyword. It tends to be highly specific, enabling you to connect with people who are making much more detailed searches. A long-tail keyword also tends to be less competitive, which means that you are more likely to feature on page #1 of the search engine results page (SERP). If you’re paying for adwords or a similar paid search engine marketing campaign then long-tail keywords tend to be much cheaper than the shorter alternatives. Google estimate that somewhere between 20-40% of all internet searches use long-tail keywords.

If you’re able to successfully employ long-tail keywords you stand to make significant gains. This will not only help your overall ranging in the search engine results pages but help you to connect with the most relevant potential customers. Ultimately, this should increase your conversation rate and increase turnover from search engine marketing.

Has Hummingbird Changed Long-Tail Search?

In August 2013 Google rolled out Hummingbird, the latest in a string of updates to its search engine algorithm. This has had various impacts, including penalising companies employing unhealthy and artificial SEO tactics.

Hummingbird has also enabled Google to gain a fuller idea of what a website is about. In other words, it means that Google is less dependent on keywords to gain this information. It’s therefore crucial that your long-tail keywords are accompanied by excellent content, strong social media performance and a healthy range of backlinks from other websites in your industry. This makes life a little more complex for many small businesses, but should reward those with regular, helpful, authentic content.

It also means that your website can attract traffic even when your long-tail keywords are slightly different from the search term entered into Google.

Google describe the impact of Hummingbird in this way:

“Hummingbird is focused more on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor, Caffeine, which was targeted at better indexing of websites.”

This update should give business owners to rethink their approach to search engine optimization. It’s becoming less about optimizing for search engines and more about optimizing for people. Keep working at your keyword strategy – and include a healthy range of shorter and long-tail keywords – but also be prepared to prioritise quality over quantity in order to maximise the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.

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