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To Kill a Hummingbird: How Google’s latest update isn’t as helpful as it might appear

Last week was a big week in online marketing. It began when Google took away keyword data from organic reporting and finished with the unleashing of its biggest algorithm change in 12 years – worried what this might mean for you? Then please, read on.

So let’s start with the algorithm change – the very wording of which will strike fear into the online marketers and customers who have seen their sites penalised in one way or another by the big two black and white beasts: Panda and Penguin. Hummingbird, however is not like it’s two land-based rivals, as Hummingbird is the big algorithm that our furry friends are part of. It’s main purpose is to allow Google to compute complex search queries such as full sentences. The fact that it has arrived now may be partly due to the fact that voice search on mobile devices is becoming more popular and somehow when talking directly into our devices to find something that we need, we’re unlikely to use staccato phrases such as ‘Italian restaurants Birmingham’ and instead opt for something more familiar to our speech patterns such as ‘find me an Italian restaurant in central Birmingham’.

Wouldn’t it be great then if Google could compute this data demonstrate in our analytics reports all of the long tail variations and complex questions that people have used to find our websites? Well it would, but it won’t happen and this is a direct result of the first drama of last week – the loss of keyword data for organic search.

If you read my blog post last week you’ll know that Google moved all search to https – thus encrypting all data before it can hit any analytics tools (not just Google analytics but any tool that uses data from Google search to report on traffic and keywords, etc). Hence, not provided is, or will shortly be, the only keyword that you will see.

What they have given us in one hand they have taken away with the other – or more correctly what they took away last Monday night means there’s nothing really positive to say about the bird that fluttered by at the end of the week.

Hummingbird, it is said, will ‘better understand’ the meaning behind the words – so as I sit here I am typing in ‘find me an alternative search engine that gives me the information I need to deliver better online marketing strategies and not just one that is interested in revenue from paid advertising.’ Compute that Google!

Posted by Frances Berry