September Update in SEO – Google Hummingbird and 100% Not Provided

September was a very busy month, which is why I have been delayed in posting this month’s round up.  Google celebrated their 15th birthday with two major changes, it introduced in the last week of September:

1- 100% not provided

2- Hummingbird

What a birthday present it shared with all of us – encrypting search query data, which means rolling out 100% not provided over the next couple of months.  The change comes as no surprise as the monopoly of Google has grown from strength to strength.  As they see the power of GA  as a great free analytics tool take shape, Google want to change the boundaries.  This encryption of all searches has come earlier than anticipated but is not really a surprise to the SEO industry who seem to always be severely impacted by the Google updates.

What does this 100% not provided mean for those in SEO? I wrote a detailed explanation on the iProspect blog, here is a summary:

1)     More difficult to find brand vs non brand data

Nearly up to 70% of search queries were not provided before this update.  A post back in January by Vanessa Fox foresaw this happening but it has taken some of the SEO world by surprise that it happened so quickly.  People have been trying to work around this for the some time. You can still get brand vs non brand data it will just be more difficult, look at the search queries in GWMT. It can still give us an idea of the searches.

2) Concentrate on on page work

Google have been saying for years “content is king”, it is about time people listened to them. Invest in time and money on getting the right people to put together a content strategy and implement it.  With the 100% not provided, it will be more important to look at the visits to the page and analyse its performance

3)  Use other tools

Don’t forget about the other tools in the market place.  Google Trends is still important in giving an overall view of the keywords searched for.  Also use the Google Keyword Planner to find the interest and impression data for keywords.

4) Don’t just report on Google data

Google does have a monopoly in the search market in the US, UK and Australia but there is still Bing and Yahoo search engines who will report on keyword level data. Report on traffic and conversion data from other search engines to your clients. In Russia, China and South Korea, Google has less than 60% of the search market and Baidu and Yandex do report on keyword level data.

5) Look at PPC

As 100%  not provided is rolled out, it will be more important to look at the impression data from PPC.  This will help discover more opportunities for new keywords as you will be able to see keyword volume.

Rand Fishkin did a great White Board Tuesday where he explained how we could find out how to improve a page’s ranking when we cannot see keyword referral data. Rand mentioned we can see referral visits from Google Search. At least Moz is there to help us.

The second major news in September was of course the …….

Hummingbird algorithm.

The full post is on the iProspect blog, however in summary this new algorithm is supposed to be more precise and provide faster query results.  Instead of focusing on search terms, it focusses on users’ intent.  This goes hand in hand with the 100% not provided update. Google wants to better serve the needs of their users which is apparently why they are rolling this new change out. The Hummingbird update is the next step in Google’s plan to separate out the great content from the poor and spam.

What does this mean for you and your clients?

There will be less emphasis on matching keywords and more about understanding the user and what they are looking for.It is important to have an all round online marketing strategy and not look at the rankings for those head terms.  Please move your clients away from look at this data which is irrelevant for conversions.

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