There’s been quite a commotion regarding Hummingbird – the newest Google search update. At first, SEO experts were worried that it might be another algorithm update, similar to what Google brought upon us with Penguin and Panda. But as it turns out, Hummingbird is nothing like it.
Link Building vs. Google Algorithm Updates
The initial big algorithm update – Panda – was targeted at weak content. In other words, if you either had weak (duplicate or bad quality) content on your site (be it affiliate site or any other kind of site), or you were linking to weak content, you were in trouble.
Then came the other update – Penguin. It targeted low quality links in general. So if your backlink profile was built partly with spammy links, Penguin made sure that those links were no longer benefiting you on the results pages.
Now comes the Hummingbird. Instead of doing what the other two did, which is adjust some areas of the algorithm, Hummingbird actually redefines the way Google search operates completely.
Google says that Hummingbird affects 90% of the searches, and it probably does. But the trick is to understand in what way this is done.
Hummingbird impacts organic search engine optimization in two main ways. First, Google aims at making their search engine more capable of understanding conversational search phrases – phrases you’d ask your friend in a real-life situation.
Then, there are location- and device-based phrases. For instance, searching for “pizza” at home from your desktop might mean that you’re looking for a recipe. Doing the same search on a mobile almost certainly means that you are interested in the nearest pizza restaurant.
What Hummingbird Means For The Future of Link Building
Looking at the example above (the one with pizza), we can presume that even if you have thousands of quality links built for the word “pizza” leading to a recipe page, it won’t help you get much mobile rankings since the searcher’s intent is different from what your content offers.
Pizza is just one example and similar scenarios can be found in any other market, including affiliate niches. These days, Google’s main goal is to understand the person doing the search, so your link building efforts need to make that easier for them.
One way of achieving this is to focus on long tail link building with very descriptive anchor texts. Of course, you can’t build hundreds of such links at once, but they are a good way to tell Google what your content is truly about. But this strategy is yet to be confirmed as there’s never anything certain with Google.
Is Link Building Dead?
Link building has been reported dead more times than we can shake a stick at. No, link building is not dead and it never will be.
No matter what happens with search, links will always be one of the main elements of SEO. It’s just the way we have to use link building that changes. A couple of years ago, we could spam the web with 100 percent anchor text rich links. Today, that’s no longer possible.
It is the time of change so we need to proceed with caution. Focusing on branded links is still a safe bet. And throwing in a handful of long tail descriptive links is a worthy experiment to make. Just don’t make it too many, too soon.