How Will Google Hummingbird Impact Links? Here Are 6 Ways

So you have a question you would like answered, and that question is:

“How Will Google Hummingbird Impact Links?”

It’s still way too early in Hummingbird season to fully understand the impact of the new algorithm, but I’ve spotted a few clues, and the title of this column is a direct result of those clues.

I wrote the title of this column in the form of a question, and I’ll write the body of the piece in the form of an answer. And my guess is in about 48 hours, if you type the above question into Google’s search box, or speak it into your headset via Google voice search, this very column’s URL will appear high up in your search results.

I know I’m taking a risk with that statement, and I’ve been wrong many times before; however, if you’ve paid attention to any of the several hundred columns I’ve written, you’ll see I’ve been pretty close to right about what it is Google wants for 15 years. So, humor me. Why? Because the single biggest clue of all can be found if we take a moment to ignore everything else written so far and focus sharply on a quote from Amit Singhal, Google SVP/Fellow, Software Engineer, and the head of Google’s core ranking team:

The change needed to be done, Singhal said, because people have become so reliant on Google that they now routinely enter lengthy questions into the search box instead of just a few words related to specific topics.

So there’s Clue #1. Searchers enter questions. Google wants to give them answers — fast, accurately, and preferably without having to leave

Clue #2. Searchers are shifting toward mobile devices.

Depending on which study you read, the percentage of searches taking place on mobile devices could be 50% or higher. The exact number is less important than the overall reality: people are using their mobile devices more, their PCs less.

Inferred Clue #3.  If searchers are entering longer searches in the form of questions, and if those searches are originating from a handheld device, then it’s quite likely that more and more of those searches are being entered by voice rather than keypad — especially if you are driving. “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” This question takes 2 seconds to ask by voice to your phone. It takes 20 seconds to type, and your eyes have to look away from the road to do it.

Thoughts & Observations About Hummingbird

With all that as a backdrop, below are a few additional details and thoughts designed to (I hope) help people understand what just happened.

If you haven’t already, take the time to read Danny Sullivan’s FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm. In it, he wrote:

No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.

I know many people don’t trust a word Google says, and that’s fine; but, common sense tells us that if you create original, deep, subject-relevant content on your sites, you will continue to generate signals of quality that matter to Google. After all, Hummingbird doesn’t suddenly turn great content into bad content. Authority and reputation, as determined by the methods Google has used and improved on for years, remain crucial.

The quote above implies that everything that was rewarded before this update will continue to be rewarded, and in some cases, more so. Google has said content is king for years, and with long tail phrases and conversational searching, authoritative content will continue to win.

Further support for this idea comes from Bill Slawski’s piece, which explores what is likely the Hummingbird patent. I concur with Bill’s thinking here: “Google doesn’t appear to have replaced previous signals such as PageRank or many of the other signals that they use to rank pages.”

Some additional notes and thoughts:

  • Google has said the Hummingbird algorithm represents the biggest change in 12 years.
  • Hummingbird is part of Google’s need to become less dependent on keywords.
  • Google’s Penguin and Panda were additions to the existing algorithm, but Hummingbird is a complete replacement of the algorithm. Penguin and Panda have been incorporated into the Hummingbird algorithm.
  • Hummingbird looks at over 200 signals when determining search rank for a site — and PageRank appears to be one of them.
  • Links can and will continue to impact PageRank, meaning that credible backlinks are a major component of Hummingbird.
  • Google Plus will impact the search experience, but not in the same way for all people and all searches

Given everything we know, what follows are six ways in which Google Hummingbird could impact links.

1. Good Content With Strong Backlinks May No Longer Be Enough

This may be painful to hear, but logic dictates that if Google is anticipating longer search phrases and answering questions directly, then that means even if you have a great answer to that same question and your page containing that answer ranks at position 4, the end user may never see it or click on it because Google has answered the question for them.

For example, you may have the greatest NFL stats website on the Web, but when I do a search for [Peyton Manning stats], here’s what Google gives me, without me having to leave or click anywhere else:


Nice work, Peyton!

The above result is awesome for the end user looking for those stats, but I can’t help but feel bad for all those NFL statistics websites that are losing clicks as Google’s strategy plays out. At the same time, I’ve stood at podiums at least 150 times and told audiences, “Google does not owe you traffic, and if your business model is based on Google sending you traffic, you better diversify your linking/traffic strategies.”

2. Identify Content That Needs Reworking

While you shouldn’t knee-jerk your content (or link anchors) into a 100% Question/Answer format, you may want to read through your content to see which pages of your site do, in fact, answer specific questions, and see if you can further edit it to send obvious semantic Q/A signals within the HTML.

Do some Google searches using both the allintitle: and site: operators to find content on your site that is (or isn’t) question/answer oriented already, like this:


allintitle:”how do”

allintitle:”how can”


Not much food for a Hummingbird

Based on this test, I see the need for me to make some tweaks to my content. I’m a bit shocked to find that, after 19 years and a few hundred pages, I’ve never written an article that had the words “how can” adjacent to each other in a title tag. Seriously? Shame on me — and that’s a Hummingbird I hear calling.

3. Don’t Play Link Jeopardy

Fight the urge to purposely seek links to your content in the form of a question, like this: How Twitter Can Impact Link Building?

Shame on me. Why? Because it stands to reason that any time Google rolls out an algorithm tweak — let alone a whole new algorithm — they are also prepared for the various ways in which people will try to game that algorithm. Likewise, while it might seem logical to begin writing all your new blog posts in Q/A format, don’t — unless, of course, that’s what your blog was for in the first place (hint).

4. Continue To Focus On Quality

Hummingbirds are madly in love with natural and relevant link profiles: links from relevant sources (and not just PageRank 7 sources); links from evergreen content sites; links from established, reputable online publications. Trust and authority remain king. How do you get that? Provide content that helps people solve problems, or better yet, teaches them something.

5. Authorship, Authorship, Authorship

Trust me. Just do it. Now.

And, lastly….

6. Know Your Options — And Use Them!

If you are going to play in Google’s house of links, know where all the rooms are for your links to hang out.

This is just common sense, but it’s amazing how few people are utilizing the various Google properties for content distribution. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t do much with video. Then I started creating some video content — not for SEO purposes, but rather to help me sell newsletter subscriptions by giving people on my site something to watch. Then a funny thing happened. Take a look at this search result:

Linking Strategies Q A   Google Search

I had no idea that my 2-hour Live Hangout On Air would end up ranking #4 out of 19 million. But there’s got to be a lesson here. The live hangout was a Google-owned technology (free), streamed (free) and then recorded (free) and hosted (free) at YouTube, another Google property. If it’s true that part of Google’s search results goal is to send people to content ASAP, and if that content is on Google owned properties, even faster; then, start getting your content and links out there on Google properties.

One last note.  When I do that same search on my mobile phone, my video ranks #1 rather than #4.  Have a look.


On a PC, this ranked 4th; on mobile, 1st.

Embrace the Hummingbird. It’s here to stay.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google | Google: Algorithm Updates | Google: Hummingbird | Google: Web Search | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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  • Rohit

    You guys are sharing great stuff. I also agree that Google wanted quality, more natural search results and more natural SEO..

  • Adam

    Relying on Google for your income is what ruined your business. Google had nothing to do with it. Start to diversify your traffic sources and you’ll be able to weather much worse storms than a silly Google animal update.

  • SEO Expert – Rahul Trivedi

    Does any body know why Google launch Penguin update just after hummingbird? Very few have of it.

  • SEO Expert – Rahul Trivedi

    Adam, i think, mobile search will overtake the desktop search in coming years because mobile users are increasing and they prefer the searching the google through it. What you say?

  • Clay

    It still kind of baffles me that Authorship is still a relatively unused tool by a lot of businesses.

  • Scritti Politti

    WTF is “Hummingbird”? This “article” is meaningless, because it starts with unexplained gibberish.

  • Kickborn

    I will debate and give -1 to Humming bird logic -

    Check this, it will support the article –

  • David Vidgen

    An interesting and thought provoking read Eric. I think Hummingbird and voice/conversational search has some distance to go before it’s anywhere near perfect. However for the time being, I believe keywords matches are here to stay. The reason I say this is because websites have yet to be constructed with this in mind (in other words SEO stakeholders and practitioners have yet to build what Google really wants) the cogs in this big wheel are far from in place. You mention above, for the need to rework existing content – to be more question like… As you are one of the most authoritative stakeholders in this market, I can imagine so many people working frantically to bring their sites inline with your recommendations. As such, Google is beginning to step closer to what it wants.

    What it does do however is really provide a level playing field and those that embrace this new type of search, can make up the future of the SERPs.

    There is no doubt that we have fallen in love with the mobile and tablet device and the manner in which we search has moved a tremendous distance. With my business head on, I have to say fair play to Google for having a vision, being innovative and for trying to understand it’s customers.

  • Yuri

    it would be so cool if there were a tool that could tell us whether the content is good for google or not. I was changing my listings on etsy so often, I think they are ok, but probably google thought different and about 100 of my listings of landscape paintings (they brought the most results in search) disappeared. The worst is that I don’t know how to change it. (( I would be very thankful for your ideas!

  • Jimmy Guevara

    I’ve read several articles on the topic. Couldn’t find that was plain and simple and serious … until I read your article.

  • lauralouise90

    You need to review your content as a customer who isn’t yet sure what they want… does your content answer the questions they’d have… Think Who? What? Why? Where? How? If your content does this then you’re well prepared for Hummingbird. If not then revise your content and do it fast!

    Laura, Ricemedia SEO

  • Dinesh Kumar

    Thanks Eric you’re always sharing gr8 info that will help users to understand latest SEO tactics and search engine effects on their businesses…

  • Dinesh Kumar

    Thanks Eric you’re always sharing gr8 info that will help users to understand latest SEO tactics and search engine effects on their businesses…


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