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The Hummingbird update - what you need to know

Just in case you missed it, Google has been spring cleaning again. According to an announcement last week, Hummingbird is fluttering its algorithmic wings all over the internet as we speak.

Some SEO types have been getting their feathers ruffled by Hummingbird.  Apparently, it's been flying around the web for about a month.... But nobody told us.

OK, that’s enough with the bird metaphors. How will Hummingbird affect your website? Here’s a quick run-down of what you need to know:

What is Hummingbird?

It's a new algorithm, another way for Google to rank the stuff that appears in its search engine results pages (SERPs) . In short, Hummingbird makes searching the internet more conversational. Google now pays attention to how you search for something rather than just what you’re looking for. It has, if you like, become more human.

Let's imagine that you want to find out how to fix a new windscreen wiper to your Ford Escort. With Hummingbird, Google now understands that you don’t want to buy a new windscreen wiper, or a new Ford Escort. You just want to know how to get the windscreen wiper onto your car. It’s looking at the context of your search engine query rather than just the “windscreen wiper” and “Ford Escort” keywords.

Why now?

Mobile phones. According to Hubspot, smartphones accounted for 24% of website traffic in the 1st quarter of 2013. Compare this to the 13% in 2012 and you get the picture. It’s huge. And it’s going to get much, much bigger. And as smartphones take over the world, so will voice search.

Normal people are pretty messy when it comes to voice search. We ask complex questions. This is Google’s way of making sure our badly-worded questions deliver the right answer.

Does this make my site’s keywords irrelevant?

No, unless you’ve been using dumb keyword optimisation.

You’ll still need to tag your keywords according to the theme and context of the page. Google has simply updated what it’s already been doing for quite some time - looking for words that show a relationship with each other, with the individual page title and with the rest of the website. Words that make sense to the reader.

If your website’s copy has been forcibly yanked around high-ranking keywords then the chances are that Google will have already noticed. Your website has been written for search engines rather than your human visitor. In other words, the keyword tail has been wagging the dog.

Will Hummingbird affect my website ranking?

Good question. I'm glad you asked.

How your website ranks will depend on one thing: great content. When they announced Hummingbird, Google were bombarded with “What should I do about it?” questions. Their response was this:

“Have original, high-quality content”.

It’s a no-brainer. Every single one of Google’s algorithmic changes – whether it’s a Panda, a Penguin or a Hummingbird – has been about favouring well-written, rich content. Blog about a topic that interests your customers, provide informative answers to questions, solve problems and above all, engage your reader.

Despite what some people will tell you, good SEO isn’t complicated. It’s about delivering the best quality response to a search engine query.

Helen Beckingham is an SEO copywriter at Keyword Copywriting. Expert scribbler on websites, blogs and e-books, rather good bassoonist, terrible singer. Contact helen@keywordcopywriting.co.uk here

3 free tips on how to write a call to action

You can write the most compelling, engaging web copy in the world. But if your call to action is "click here", it’s a wasted effort.

Your call to action (CTA) is the most important part of your website. It’s where you motivate your visitor to perform a task – contact you, download something, sign up. It’s the golden link between traffic-stopping content and conversion.

CTAs are one of the most tricky things to get right. For a start, they have to be short. With a few words you’ve got to persuade your visitor to stop faffing around and make the decision to choose you.

So how do you get it right? Here are 3 tips:

Be direct

Avoid confusing your reader. Your wording needs to be clear, specific and action-orientated. The first word is the most important, and it needs to be positive - “receive”, “learn”, “improve”, "activate".

Put your CTA somewhere obvious. Don’t hide your light under a hyperlink bushel at the bottom of the page. Never forget that your visitor will be skimming your content, flitting around like an impatient magpie looking for something shiny. Use buttons, bright colours, big bold text.

Make it easy

Avoid a CTA that sounds complicated. Your potential customer will be multi-tasking while they’re reading your website. The easier the action, the more likely they are to take it.

To give you an example, let’s say you want your visitor to download a newsletter. Here are 2 possible CTAs:

 Which one are you most likely to download? It may be the same newsletter, but I’d choose the one that takes less than a minute.

Make things simple for your reader by sticking to one CTA per page, two at most - one primary and one secondary. CTAs are supposed to stand out. Put too many on one page and they’ll all disappear in a confusing mush. You’ll end up shouting at your reader and they'll leave with a headache.

Let them know why

Website readers are savvy. They’re constantly surrounded with CTAs urging them to take one action or another. Why should they do as they’re told? Why should they take the action that you’re asking of them?

Because they’ll benefit.

OK, I keep banging on about this “What’s in it for me?” thing. But it’s important. Your reader is more likely to take action if it’s worth their while. They need to know what they’ll gain. Your call to action needs to answer this question:


If you want someone to like you on Facebook, don’t just say “Like us on Facebook”. Give them a reason with “Like us on Facebook and win… ”. There’s no benefit to “Download now”. It’s much more tempting to “Get your FREE e-book”.

The most effective CTAs follow persuasive content that communicates information, benefits, value and trust. If you’d like to improve your website content but don't know where to start, here’s my call to action.


Helen Beckingham is an SEO copywriter at Keyword Copywriting. Expert scribbler on websites, blogs and e-books, rather good bassoonist, terrible singer. Contact helen@keywordcopywriting.co.uk here