SEOs Around the World: Hummingbird Q&A with Morgan Vawter

Elena Terenteva

Nov 19, 20133 min read
SEOs Around the World

We continue to collect answers from SEO specialists all around the world about the new Hummingbird algorithm.

Today, we have an interview with Morgan Vawter. Morgan is the VP of Analytics & Optimization at Piston Agency in San Diego. She has been named a top digital strategist by the Online Marketing Institute.

Did you face any problems after the Hummingbird launch?

Google's latest algorithm, Hummingbird, is unlike previous updates such as Panda and Penguin. Rather than an update to the existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a complete replacement of the algorithm.

While it affected 90% of search results and wasn't announced by Google until a month after implementation, we didn't face any problems after the launch. We focus our clients' SEO strategies on providing an optimal user experience through developing unique valuable content on and off their websites.

Because speed and precision are the focus of the Hummingbird algorithm, there is greater importance placed on how pages are indexed and the intent behind those pages. Ensuring our clients implement updates that clearly show the purpose of their existing content (keyword-relevant URLs, title tags, schema mark-up, content, alt text, etc.) and build out additional fact-based content has helped increase organic search traffic.

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?

According to Google, there aren't any different strategies that SEOs need to worry about. Previous search engine signals — including unique, high quality content — remain important with the Hummingbird update.

Because this update focuses on improving complex, long tail queries, there isn't a significant impact on rankings for head terms. Ranking better for the long tail conversational search terms starts with reviewing our content to make sure it aligns with how people actually think and search.

Use relevant keywords and phrases, and be informative. An example would be optimizing your content for "dog food ingredients" and "dog food ingredient quality" rather than just "dog food nutrition." With search engines beginning to comprehend a concept rather than a keyword, there is also a greater emphasis on developing an in-depth, multi-page content strategy that addresses the questions of users.

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?

Although keyword-level data is unavailable from Google through traditional analytics platforms, there are still other tools that can provide valuable keyword insights. At Piston, our technology stack includes Compete, Hitwise, Google Webmaster Tools and SEMrush; all of which provide keyword data including impressions, clicks, traffic and rankings for keywords.

The only change in our reporting structure is that we can no longer directly link keyword data from Google to on-site performance. We can, however, approximate this performance using third party keyword data and first party Web Analytics landing page data.

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

Yes. Adding pages with high-quality, fact-based, unique content will help to increase organic search engine traffic. FAQs are always a smart bet! They provide a great resource for your users, and help to increase organic search traffic for long tail phrases.

The main theme of Hummingbird is quality, not quantity. Each page should be able to stand on its own, and not be developed for the sake of targeting a single key phrase. Previously, SEOs optimizing for “healthy dog food” may have focused on creating multiple pages including “Healthy Dog Food Basics,” “Healthy Dog Food 101” and “Nutritious Dog Food.” All of these pages targeted essentially the same concept and key phrase. Post-Hummingbird, re-hashing the same topic again and again using different keywords is less effective.

Instead, the focus should be on supporting the concept of “healthy dog food” with unique pages of specific content that address the concept. Like “High vs. Low Quality Dog Food Ingredients” and “Grain Free Dog Food.”

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

While keyword not provided data has removed direct post-click interaction data from our Web Analytics software, including Google Analytics and Omniture SiteCatalyst, we still have access to keyword-level data for other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing. We can also approximate the top performing Google keywords by integrating Google Webmaster Tools keyword click and impression data with top organic search landing pages.

Morgan Vawter bio

Morgan manages the Analytics and Optimization team at Piston Agency ( She has a B.S. in Psychology and Chemistry, and has spent years as a Web Strategy and Analytics Consultant for many big-name brands. Morgan is a frequent industry event speaker, and was recently named one of the top Digital Strategists by the Online Marketing Institute, and one of the Top 10 Hottest Digital Marketers by iMedia.

Author Photo
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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