I was recently doing some keyword research work for a client. Part of that involved surveying competitor sites and seeing for what keywords they’re trying to rank. While I was doing this research, I was surprised to find that many of these sites (a few of which were very well-known sites) were basically keyword stuffing their back-end. While not uncommon to see this problem, especially on older sites, what got me really thinking was the fact that many of the keywords were just so generic.
On these sites, I saw terms like lobbying, advocacy, politics and cartoons. There were no long-tail keywords, and certainly no thought put into these terms. Advocacy, but advocacy for what? Politics – in which country?
In the past, we SEO people were told to add as many keywords as possible, especially in the early to mid-2000s. It was just the way of the world. But then a few years later, we got to thinking about how people actually search. No one just searches “politics”, but they may search “how do Washington politics affect global industry”. Long-tail keywords just provided more targeted results. If anyone was just searching “cartoons”, they may find a few political cartoons, but they’re just as likely to get millions of results of anything from Garfield to The Oatmeal. So you’d have to search “Washington political cartoons” to find for what you are really searching.
Targeted searches provide better results, and the importance of that is nowhere better seen than mobile devices. Mobile devices don’t have a lot of battery life, and WiFi can be painfully slow. Mobile users don’t have the time (or the patience or battery life) to wade through thousands of results. The screen is small, and you’re on a mobile device because you’re probably on the move. Or worse, you’re sitting in a meeting and need to get the right result ASAP. Mobile users need to ask targeted questions to find what they need quickly. So people on these devices tend to search via questions or sentences, i.e. “I need to find the closest shoe store to 14th and Curtis, Denver”.
What the Hummingbird update does is simply look at this entire sentence and then finds the results that make the most sense for that person. This update is not another nail in the SEO coffin. It’s just the natural progression of what people are already doing. SEO people just need to get out of the mindset that they just need to focus on keywords or long-tail keywords, and actually start thinking about how people search. It’s our jobs to do that anyway.
So don’t fear the Hummingbird. Embrace it, understand it, and help your clients fly. (Bad pun, but hey, it works!)