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Google’s Algorithm Update: Is your Website Hummingbird Compliant?

“Hummingbird” is the name of Google’s NEW search algorithm.  It’s their largest search algorithm update since 2001, affecting about 90% of all searches. Unlike the continuous modifications and enhancements the search engine has always made to its existing search algorithm in the past (including Panda and Penguin), Google Hummingbird is a brand NEW algorithm – a complete overhaul of its previous version.

Hummingbird was quietly launched last month on the eve of Google’s 15th birthday. InGoogle Hummingbird celebration of this change, Google is rewarding desktop AND mobile websites that comply with its mobile requirements.  (Keep in mind that your desktop website is directly impacted by your mobile site, and vice versa – so both need to be in compliance, not just one or the other.) On the flip side, websites that are not mobile compliant are downgraded in rank and search visibility. Like its namesake, speed and mobility are the focal criteria by which Google is gauging website success, and rewarding mobile compliant websites with greater visibility. 

To check if your websites are in compliance for mobile searches, use this short list, or contact us for a free diagnostic report.  The good news is that most of these fixes are fairly simple to do. The bad news is that unless you’re an experienced website developer or programmer, you will have to rely on them for assistance.

  1. Proper redirects. Make sure that all server redirects website users to the associated page on the mobile site and not just to your mobile website’s homepage. If the user searches for something and clicks a link, they should be able to get that content regardless of whether they are on a phone, a desktop or a tablet. 
  2. Point links across devices.  If you have an “m,” mobile website, each desktop page should contain a “rel=alternate” link Meta tag that points to the mobile URL, and each mobile page should contain a “rel=canonical” Meta tag that points to the desktop URL.
  3. Content by user agent.  TO AVOID BEING PENALIZED FOR WHAT GOOGLE MAY CONSTRUE AS CLOAKING OR BAIT-AND-SWITCH REDIRECTS, Google recommends that all sites that customize their mobile experience based on user-agent settings make it clear to bots that content varies by user agent. 
  4. Error pages. Confirm that none of your desktop pages lead mobile users to 404 error pages.
  5. Fast downloads.  The total time to download a mobile page should be less than one second. Since “speed” is part of Google Hummingbird’s algorithm, search rankings could suffer if overlooked.
  6. Playable videos.  Avoid content in formats such as Flash, that can not be played on all mobile devices.  Use HTML5 standard tags instead.

The list above assumes you have a separate mobile version of your website and blog, or that your desktop version use responsive design. If not, establish a mobile friendly presence of your webpages ASAP to comply with Google’s Hummingbird-driven requirements and save potential customers from abandoning your website due to a repelling user experience.

The new Hummingbird algorithm is as much about search improvement as it is about Google’s priority and focus on the mobile horizon.  Considering more than half of all time spent online is now through a mobile device1, and Google dominates with 96% of the world’s mobile search market2, it really is in every businesses best interest to configure and comply with Google’s new requirements and capitalize on the burgeoning mobile audience.

Source1: Jumptap/comScore

Source2: StatCounter

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