SEO: Hummingbird update – the long-tail is back!

When using the Google search engine you would have discovered a couple of enhancements such as the ability to accept voice input (speech-to-text) for searches and more natural query based inputs (semantic search). Well this is due to the Hummingbird update — the most significant change that Google has made to its search algorithm since 2001. Does that mean that all our SEO efforts are in vain, and that we have to redo all the optimization on our websites and web pages all over again? What about all the money people have spent on PPC for inorganic search listings? Are my high page rankings gone for a toss?

Do not panic! Everything stays the same! But you now have to consider something called ‘long tail keywords’ in your SEO tactics. This was once popular but seemed to be forgotten in recent years. More on long-tail keywords and searches later in my article.



All along people used to type in one or two keywords into a search engine text box and hit [Enter], hoping they would find what they were looking for on the first page of the SERPs (search engine results pages) itself. The competition and search volume for these keywords was (and still is) high, and naturally you had to bid higher for these on Google Adwords. But in recent years both young and old Net citizens have been typing questions into the search text box — such as “What are the symptoms for Dyslexia in adults?” And the search algorithm was not intelligent to understand the context or semantics of these search phrases.

Well the Hummingbird update makes the Google search algorithm more intelligent to understand the context of these phrases. And it is evident that Google is one day going to be a power bank of information and a sources for answers (remember the intelligent computer on board the star ship Enterprise in Star Trek? How about the Android named Data, the walking encyclopedia, who is part of the crew?). And have you heard about IBM’s Jeopardy project and its natural search processing abilities?

The other great Hummingbird introduction is the ability to accept voice input. If you haven’t tried it, do click the microphone icon next to the search box on your next visit to Google and then speak into the mic on your PC — better still try this on your mobile phone. I think this is going to be a hit on mobile phones since it spares one the trouble of typing on a tiny on-screen keyboard. And I am hoping to see more use of speech-to-text in other applications in the coming months — it will save me a lot of time (and pain) that goes towards manually transcribing my interviews.

Read more about the Hummingbird update here:

Long-tail keywords are back!

If you have the patience to read this far, then you already understand what are long-tail keywords. These are the natural language phrases that you type in search engines — a departure to the one or two keywords you typed earlier.

So instead of “bed bugs” you can now type “home remedies for bed bugs” or “Where can I buy Marshmallows in Mumbai?”

Earlier long-tail keywords were perceived to have low competition and low search volume,and therefore lower pricing for bids on Google Adwords. But that’s set to change soon, thanks to Hummingbird.

Search engines have now been primed for natural language searches. So do consider long-tail keywords in your SEO strategy. As you try to optimise your content for search engines, imagine what questions users will ask to get to your content. And put these long tail keywords in your meta tags. Repeat them in your content.

Read more about long-tail keywords here: