Inside the industry and inside the agency
A 15th birthday celebration these days typically comprises a semi-parented house party with covert alcohol consumption and awkward attempts at dub-step dancing. On 27th September 2013 however, Google smashed this tradition out of the water, celebrating its 15 year milestone with the launch of a mega algorithm named “Google Hummingbird”. Nothing too flash then.
The aftermath of any new algorithm or update from Google is always an uncertain period of speculation, with SEO bods everywhere frantically piecing together information strategically leaked from various sources, in a bid to figure out its components. Like an earthquake, the scale of destruction is often difficult to measure until the chaos has calmed down and the aftershocks have ceased.
Following the release of Hummingbird, the SEO team spent a busy few months measuring the effects of Hummingbird and understanding its elements. Let’s now take a look at Google Hummingbird 3 months on.
What was Hummingbird?
Hummingbird, unlike updates such as Penguin 2.0, was a brand new algorithm. It was designed around long tail query strings, interacting with and servicing internet users on a more human level.
In a world where internet searches are performed from a multitude of devices, Google has decided to adapt to cater for changing ways in which a user searches for information. Conversational based searches are on the rise as smart phones promote the use of natural language search functions such as voice searches.
How powerful were the effects of Hummingbird?
The Hummingbird update is, according to Google’s Senior Vice President Amit Singhal, the biggest algorithm change since Google Caffeine in 2010. Caffeine was a search index algorithm to return fresher search results displayed to users, to satisfy their expectations for latest, relevant content. Hummingbird, although a new algorithm seems to build upon elements of Caffeine to provide fresh content, but developing an even more intelligent way to understand a user’s search intent and return relevant results based on synonyms and knowledge graphs from each user query.
Google Hummingbird builds an understanding of user intent from search interaction, returning top quality content that offers the user the freshest, most engaging and most relevant results that maximise user satisfaction.
What does Google Hummingbird mean to users?
Google is always striving to improve the user experience, and Google Hummingbird is simply, or rather complexly continuing this tradition. Developed to return the very best and most satisfying results to the user, Hummingbird aims to get on the level of the user and focus on a collection of conversational based keywords to provide pages that offer the most amount of relevant information to satisfy the user’s query.
The update was named Hummingbird as it aims to get the information quickly and precisely, in much the same way that a Hummingbird extracts nectar.
What does Google Hummingbird mean to SEO people?
Hummingbird is not nearly as scary as we might think. If we have all been working to comply with Google’s changing algorithms, refreshes and updates over the years, we should already be maintaining the delicate balancing act of satisfying both the user and the search engine and meeting Hummingbird’s criteria. This means creating well written, well researched content that is engaging to the user and naturally serves a core purpose. Hummingbird is a natural progression of this mind-set, taking the principles of Google’s previous algorithms and giving us a return on the fruits of our labour, by connecting outstanding content with those who are looking for it.
Wickedweb is delighted to announce that our client ARCADIS, the international engineering and consultancy company, has successfully completed its 1,000,000km ARCADIS125 Sporting Challenge. The global initiative celebrates 125 years of ARCADIS with a focus on sporting teamwork, fun and creativity. Members of ARCADIS and group companies including EC Harris contributed to the global challenge. 22,000 participants from around the world achieved a staggering 1,029,983km from activities including running, cycling, swimming, skiing and many other sports.
ARCADIS originally set an ambitious target of 250,000km for the sporting challenge, however this goal was easily surpassed with over 2 months remaining. Zack Smith, Member of the ARCADIS Executive Board, then decided to up the goal to 1,000,000km for the eager participants.
The unique initiative supported three global charities: WWF, JDRF and Transparency International. Wickedweb aided ARCADIS with strategy, web development and design for the ARCADIS125 website that included a global leader board, a comment wall and a charity dashboard. Each participant had their own unique dashboard where they could update their distance completed and assign it to one of the charities, and also upload their photos and videos of the challenge.
To celebrate the magnificent achievement ARCADIS kindly provided Wickedweb with a delicious cake, which was quickly eaten by our hungry Wickedwebbers!
We’re thrilled to announce that Wickedweb has been ranked 4th in the Drum Top 100 Digital Census, for agencies with 1-50 digital staff.
Providing a comprehensive review of the digital marketing landscape in the UK, the Drum Digital Census comprises three main polls; financial, client and peer. Wickedweb ranked highly in terms of financial performance, client satisfaction and ratings from peers, which has led to our elite status.
Thank you to our peers who ranked us as their most respected agency - we're incredibly proud to have achieved our impressive ranking. Fingers crossed for the top-spot next year!
We’re thrilled to announce that the Reed Learning website, designed and built by Wickedweb, has won the IMA Best in Class Award in the ‘Training/Vocational’ category, with a fantastic overall score of 494 out of 500.
The highest honour bestowed by the Interactive Media Awards, the Best in Class Award represents the very best in planning, execution and overall professionalism. In order to achieve such a prestigious award, the Reed Learning project had to successfully pass through a comprehensive judging process, achieving very high marks in each of the judging criteria – an achievement only a fraction of sites in the IMA competition earn each year.
Utilising a points-based scoring system, each area of the website is marked out of 100. We’re thrilled that the Reed Learning design and build project received consistently high marks for each of the core areas; design, content, feature functionality, usability and standards compliance & cross-browser compatibility, to achieve an impressively high overall score.
A special mention and congratulations to Reed Learning’s Engagement Team; Account Director Neil Narain, Project Manager, Glen Richardson and Executive Designer, Emma Aktins, as well as the wider Wickedweb team who have helped to support the project.
Google Panda, Google Penguin - it’s starting to sound like Google has developed a penchant for famous animation films. The global algorithm-loving power-house has seemingly ticked off DreamWorks and Warner Brothers in their major algorithm updates from the past two years. Are we to expect Pixar next with Google Monster? Maybe that’s not so far-fetched, what with their mysterious no-named algorithm update on 25th June that was arguably nothing, but that sent SEO Moz stats through the roof, recording some of the highest spells of unsettled weather among rankings.
Google Monster, as it will affectionately be known inside the walls of Wickedweb, certainly split the crowd in the SEO world, with some SEO peeps claiming it was nothing (backed up by the lack of pandemonium in the SEO forums), but others considering it the ‘silent but deadly fart of the SEO world’ that dramatically changed rankings overnight among specific industries. A monster update that had virtually no warning, other than a heads up from Google’s Matt Cutts that there would be a series of weekly “Panda Dance” update. What we were expecting, were Panda aftershocks. What we seemingly got however (depending on your source of information), was more like a fresh earthquake; unexpected and unforgiving.
What do we know about Google “Monster”?
SEO forums SEO Book and SEO Chat have been pretty quiet, suggesting they aren’t overly concerned about this update. Other forums talked about the update being a temporary glitch with Google (highly unlikely, but we like their optimism). SEO Moz however tells a different story. Their weather tracker is a report detailing turbulence in the Google algorithm world; the hotter and stormier the weather, the more disruption among Google’s rankings. The day after the mysterious Google Monster update, MozCast weather tracker registered a whopping 113.3°F, the highest it’s been since 13th December 2012 (102.2°). Major update Penguin 2.0 on 22nd May 2013 registered just 80.7°F.
So What Was Affected?
Naturally rankings for some industries are more volatile than others, but those largely affected by this phantom update included home and garden, computers and consumer electronics, occasions and gifts, apparel and real estate industries. The update saw rankings shift majorly overnight, with brands that had fairly consistent positioning on page one, randomly dropping off the first page, replaced by results that were either non-industry brands, such as news sites, or brands that had previously been indexed much lower.
We can perhaps understand the promotion of news sites that boast well-written, well-researched content, attracting a plethora of natural and quality backlinks. We know the game well enough to acknowledge that quality content is required to give a site authority, which in laymen’s terms means abstaining from pilfering, duping or paraphrasing other internet guru’s literary handy-work (she says, desperately trying not to over-quote facts from Moz Blog). Sites that rode the Penguin 2.0 wave successfully without being ‘Penguin-slapped’ were testament to the fact they were engaging in good practices, but the major shift of brands from this subsequent update is alarming. Some suggest this is a penalisation of partial match domains (PMDs), whereby sites were slapped for over-optimising their domain names with top keywords. The pattern shows these PMD sites as being the most affected by this update, with an example from Moz showing the decline of limo service companies that used the word “limo” in their domain, whereas limo service sites without this keyword in the domain were promoted to higher positions.
The penalisation of PMD provokes a white hat - black hat debate where SEO practice is concerned. On one hand, optimising a domain with relevant keywords could be understood as reinforcing a brand within its respective industry and therefore white hat as SEO practices go. From a black hat view however, it could be seen as manipulation of Google in a bid to game the system; something that the algorithms are getting more sophisticated at recognising. After all, if Google is favouring recognised brands with author rank, advanced content and natural link-building, surely brands shouldn’t need to use keywords in their domain names. You’d think.
So What Can We Expect Next from Google?
Predicting Google’s next move is like predicting the UK weather. We can make predictions based on trend formation, but we don’t have the full picture on what’s coming. It’s generally a guideline that is governed by the intermittent drip-feeding of ‘white hat practice’ guidelines by Google’s Matt Cutts, which are then analysed, interpreted and tested by SEO wizards everywhere. Ultimately though, as long as sites maintain a hierarchical approach, whereby they aim to satisfy the user over the search engine, they should weather the storm well and win the game.
About the author...
I’m Hannah – a 30-something mother of one from the sunny seaside town of Folkestone, Kent. My Wickedweb journey started in early June this year, when I joined the busy Media team as an SEO content specialist, although I have since been honing some skills on the technical side of SEO.
I have a real “work hard, play hard” ethic and so when I’m not busy working on client websites, or training at my local boxing club, you’ll usually find me a) over indulging in food and drink, b) listening to and/or playing house music very loudly or c) spending quality time with my daughter and generally behaving like CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher (just Google him…it’s frightening).
To find out how Wickedweb can help with your project contact us today on:
Tel: +44(0)20 7183 4999
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