SEOs Around the World: Hummingbird Q&A with Mike van der Heijden

Elena Terenteva

Nov 28, 20132 min read
Hummingbird Q&A with Mike van der Heijden

From the US to Australia!

Mike van der Heijden, SEO Director for search agency Atomic Search talks about Hummingbird. Get ready to know more about the new algorithm. Spoiler alert: be prepared to work hard on changes!

Did you face any problems after the Hummingbird launch?

To date we have not had any problems with the release of the Hummingbird algorithm.

Hummingbird is supposed to be useful with conversational search, but we speak in a different way than we type. How do you find the right queries that would be useful for both types of search?

The Hummingbird algorithm is supposedly a fix to just that; it is trying to make Google understand a more conversational structure to the search query.

Danny Sullivan gave a great example in his blog post about the Hummingbird algorithm update: “’What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?’” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

“Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.”

I think this algorithm, if anything, will not only be more meaningful to searches, but also a lot more useful to online marketers.

If I put more informative pages on my website, will it help increase traffic?

If the content you’re publishing is unique and insightful, no doubt!

What if I’m losing traffic? Since we face a “not provided keywords” problem, how can I see what keywords are not working for me any longer?

Your strategy should never be all about the keywords in the first place. While keyword rankings are a good indicator of how your site is health-wise, it is more important to ask yourself, “Where on my website am I losing this traffic?”

Once you have identified the pages that are losing traffic, you will get a better understanding of what keywords are associated with those pages, and you can continue your analysis from there.

How can SEOs deal with “not provided keywords” now? Any tricks or advice?

Besides the reporting aspect, I believe the hiding of keyword information is almost a blessing in disguise.

For years now, I’ve been trying to educate clients about the diminishing importance of individual keyword rankings, but rather looking at keyword clusters (a name we give a collection of related keywords) and page level metrics.

While reporting on organic traffic is obviously still important, and it’s not ideal that branded and non-branded traffic cannot be easily segmented, it is not entirely impossible.

I would advise online marketers to focus more on SEO as a holistic marketing approach. Stop worrying about rankings, start worrying about (as Wil Reynolds put it) Real Company Shit!

Mike van der Heijden bio Mike van der Heijden is a Cairns-based SEO Director for Australia’s leading enterprise search agency Atomic Search.

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Elena TerentevaElena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at Semrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies. Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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