Several weeks ago Google announced the release of their latest algorithm change dubbed the “Hummingbird” update.  Like their other seemingly harmless-sounding updates like Panda and Penguin, this update is proving to be more vicious than the cute name implies.  As sort of a double whammy, Google also released an update just days later on October 4.  Some sites moved up while others dropped, leaving professional SEOs scratching their heads wondering what happened.

Matt Cutts, Google’s official spokesperson said that the Hummingbird update was intended to provide faster search results which pay more attention to the meaning and intention of the search, rather than paying attention to just the “important” keywords in the search.  Up until this point, Google’s algorithm had all but ignored what are called stop words, the little, rather meaningless words like “why” or “the” or “if.”   However, with this latest update, Google is now paying more attention to those little words that were previously deemed unimportant.  As a result, one who is looking for “restaurants Denver” will likely find a different set of results than those who are looking for “restaurants in Denver” or even “restaurants near Denver.”

Unfortunately for many, this rule change can spell disaster for those who have intentionally eliminated stop words from their headlines and the like to please Google.  For the past couple years, Google has been hinting at the need to write natural-sounding copy that’s written for humans rather than for Google’s robots but this update marks a definite shift which demonstrates just how serious they are about this.   Sites with artificial-sounding headlines, which once garnered top search results are relegated to page 5 or page 10 and are being replaced with those that have more conversational headlines.

So what’s the take away?  Well, beyond just incorporating stop words into your content, this update is significant because it also marks one of the first times in history that Google’s Matt Cutts has been on the up and up with the general public.  Typically, his “encouragements” prove to be misleading and require a lot of reading between the lines, but this time, for some reason, he leveled with his audience and showed his cards.

Hope that helps.


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