It’s been an interesting week in the world of SEO. Google made a couple of significant announcements that has left both SEO firms and webmasters wondering what impact they are going to have on rankings in the long term.

Google Hummingbird

First off, Google’s Amit Singhal held a press conference out of the original garage where Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the search giant fifteen years ago, and announced the roll-out of a new algorithm with the code name Hummingbird.

Google Hummingbird

According to Singhal, Hummingbird is not a new algorithm update like Panda or Penguin. It is “the new algorithm” – Google has fundamentally changed the way their search engine works. Hummingbird is the biggest Google algorithm change since Caffeine, and has been designed to run queries based on natural language – such as complex questions – rather than looking up queries on a keyword by keyword basis.

My own theory is that this readies Google for the next big Google search trend which will have us all speaking what we want to search via our smartphones (using Google Now) and Google Glass rather than tapping away at our keyboards.

Hummingbird is apparently meant to take the learning from Google’s Knowledge Graph and apply it to the rest of the web. When indexing pages it will try and understand the meaning behind the page copy and match it against whole sentences of a query rather than just individual keywords.

So what does Hummingbird mean for SEO?

By all accounts the mechanism of searching hasn’t changed – but what Google searches has. Google is now much less dependent on keywords and now focuses more on what it understands your site to be about. So maybe be it is a case of building natural language in to page copy, mirroring what questions people use in Google – rather than focusing on individual keywords within a page.

Coming up with the right content strategy will be extremely important for Hummingbird optimisation. For example, I can see a big push towards adding more discussion pages, FAQs and How-to pages as a first response.

Not Provided Data

After all of the excitement about a brand new Google search algorithm, we were disappointed to learn of Google’s intention to restrict even more of its search data for webmasters. In an eConsultancy article, Google confirmed they were making the default search experience encrypted for all users, which means that all of the search terms these users use will show up as “not provided” in Google Analytics.

What does “not provided” mean for SEO?

We have seen the number of “not provided” results in Google Analytics increase month on month – which has made analysing keyword performance that much more difficult. It’s ironic that Google has gifted us such amazing tools like Analytics and Webmaster Tools but is now gradually reducing the amount of key information it lets us access.

One could argue that with the launch of Hummingbird and the focus on keywords becoming much less important – it is not such a big deal. I guess we will have to wait and see.