Hummingbird Hasn’t Destroyed Local SEO

Apologies for the spoiler in the title, but let’s just get it out of the way now. Hummingbird hasn’t killed local SEO, and there’s no indication it will.

Still, it’s a good time to take another look at your local search campaigns with the changes of Google’s new algorithm in mind. Hummingbird intends to improve Google’s user experience by gaining a deeper understanding of an entire search query. A bit vague, right? While I won’t go into too much detail (you can find all the necessary background information at Search Engine Land), Google’s explanation revolves around “conversational search.” Construed by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan,

Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words.

“What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.

So how does this affect strategy? Simply put, the best search result is going to be the one that can answer a user’s query directly. This means it’s time, if you haven’t yet, to build some simple, good FAQ content. I’m sure if you’re a local business owner, a lot of your staff are asked the same questions repeatedly. That’s a good place to start. Fortunately, the content doesn’t even need to be explicitly local. Local SEO Guide’s Andrew Shotland explains:

There’s nothing inherently local about the phrase, “how to get rid of mold spots on ceiling,” and the current Google SERP for that query shows a lot of national DIY site results.

But if you think about Hummingbird’s goal to “focus on the meaning behind the words,” you’ll see that sooner or later, Google is going to start to put the fact that you have mold spots on your ceiling together with the idea that you might want to remove those spots and that’s where local businesses that target these queries can gain an unfair advantage over the eHows and DIY.coms of the world.

What does this all mean? Well, Hummingbird hasn’t had a huge impact on local SEO, yet. It’s just like all algorithm changes — by staying on top of the intent behind an update, you can employ strategies designed to keep your clients, or your business, ahead of the curve. It’s not good enough to have a well-optimized page with citations, unstructured citations, and name/address/phone consistency. As always, you need good content. Hummingbird is just driving the significance of unique content even further, and that’s a good thing for hard-working SEOs, business owners, and Google users.

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