Hummingbird + Keyword (Not Provided) = You Actually Have to Care

SEOs have been annoyed for the past week with Google. First, they took away our keywords on the Google Analytics reports. And then, they created Hummingbird.


Credit: Dawn Hopkins

Not as many people have been annoyed with Hummingbird, probably because:

A) They have not seen their rankings drop, yet.
B) They are well branded and their site is benefiting from the long tail keywords being converted to short tail, or
C) They have no clue what Hummingbird is actually doing, yet.

But! People are still annoyed – at least, most bloggers and those who Tweet.


So, Why did Google do this to us?

Before you go and whine and claim that Google is killing small business, destroying search, and is ruining the world… Don’t blame Google. Blame yourself.

SEOs tried to win over their audience without caring about them.


  • We keyword stuffed
  • We keyword stuffed invisible areas
  • We wrote crappy content. Ever re-read anything you wrote 3 years ago, let along 6 months ago?
  • We bought stupid domain names with keywords
  • We hired writers with no knowledge of our business to write articles on specific keywords.
  • We talked about Keywords
  • We said the word SERP and thought we were cool.
  • And we keyword stuffed some more.
  • Some have even yet to remove ["meta name="Keywords" content="Keyword Stuffed"] because they still think it works.

We did not care about the consumer. So Google Had to fix it. Hummingbird and (Not Provided) in addition to Panda are are direct response to this.

What do you do now? Here’s what you don’t do!

When you first begin working in SEO, you focused on turning everything into keywords. If you were a mechanic in Boston with specialties in repair or maintenance, you crafted blog posts around :

  • Oil Change Boston
  • Tire Rotation Boston
  • O2 Sensor Replacement
  • Battery Replacement

Based on that list, here is a sample list of articles that you wrote:

  1. Boston Mechanic Shows You How to Change the Oil
  2. 6 Reasons why Tire Rotation is a Must
  3. What does an O2 Sensor Do?

And then you would put some cheesy CTA at the end.

And Sadly, you didn’t have to know anything about car repair – or write good content – to rank for these keywords. In fact, you could just re-write Wiki content, throw some links at it, and it’d probably rank.

All you had to do was beat the formula. You could write about an oil change and have never changed oil in your life.  It was all about beating the formula, not serving the customer.

*Be careful. I’m definitely not saying, stop doing keyword targeting, stop putting good keywords in your titles and making your pages contextually relevant to search queries. But, instead of that being the FIRST step, make it the SECOND step.

So, post Panda, Hummingbird, Not Provided, where we go now?

Where Do You Begin? The First Step

We begin to care.

We began where traditional marketing always started. We research and define our buyer personas. We define …. to beat it to death … our “Target Audience”. But instead of treating them as pageviews, clicks, unique viewers, we think of them as people (ironic, huh?).

Think about your audience for a bit.

  • Who are they?
  • What would they want to read?
  • What interest them?
  • How old are they?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What do they spend their money on?
  • What are they most passionate about?

Then, we begin to write content that:

  • appeals to our audience,
  • interest our audience, and
  • delights our audience

As a business owner, think of your audience as the person walking in your store…

Would you run up to a customer and spam them and harass them until they did what you wanted? NO! So why do you do it online?

Treat your customer online the same way you would in person. Greet them kindly. Ask them if you can help. Show them how you can help. And if they don’t buy anything, leave a great impression and they’ll probably come back.

These Google updates wouldn’t bother us if we treated online visitors with decency and respect. 


What is an hCard? And how can it help Local SEO?

Whenever you want to show the contact details of an individual or an organization, you can use a special set of HTML class attributes defined in microformats known as the hCard. A hCard is very similar to the vCard that is built with the OSX on the Mac – just think of the hCard as a business card that you hand to search engines.

But let’s take one step back – What are micro formats (that hCard uses)?


Credit: Andrew


There are many kinds of microformats (and even more now that HTML5 is the standard), each of which is designed to provide ways to make information better to understand, with the aim of making it machine-readable. Besides hCards, there are other types of microformats for different cards, such as review and recipe cards.

Microformats are just extra details. Think of it this way: A hCard is a Business Card with information, a hReview is a review (on a movie, business, restaurant, etc…), and other cards can even include recipes (very important for measurements).

Business Card

Credit: Murat Ertürk


The hCard provides a set of values for the class action and it is used to explain contact information, such as names, addresses, telephone, email address, instant messaging names, and the organizations. Think of it this way – without the hCard, the search engine doesn’t know if “Main Street” is just two words, or if it is an address.

Let’s take a look at an example:

<div id="" class="vcard">
<span class="fn n">
<span class="given-name"></span>
<span class="additional-name"></span>
<span class="family-name"></span>
<div class="org">Thriveworks</div>
<a class="email" href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>
<div class="adr">
<div class="street-address">872 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2-2</div>
<span class="locality">Cambridge</span>,
<span class="region">MA</span>,
<span class="postal-code">02139</span>
<span class="country-name">United States</span>
<div class="tel">(617) 395-5806</div>
<p style="font-size:smaller;">This <a href="">hCard</a> created with the <a href="">hCard creator</a>.</p>

872 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2-2

Cambridge, MA, 02139 United States

(617) 395-5806


As you can tell from above, the microformats are not visible to the person reading the page. The hCard is purely for Search Engines and Browsers. The only visible difference is the spaces from the div elements.

The example above only shows a few ways to use the hCard, but other examples include email addresses, birthdays, photos, organization, work cell, phone numbers, home, and work address (etc…). If you want to see the full value of hCards, you can check them out here. There’s a handy tool for creating the hCard here (just make sure you remove the hCard link).

You can use CSS to control the presentation of these elements, but by default, the elements will not be displayed differently. Since they are class attributes, you can easily style them anyway you would like.

Why are they useful?

hCards are useful for a few reasons:

  1. Search Engines are told what kind of information each element contains. The search engine can now tell the difference between a street and a state.
  2. hCards make this information available to others for download. There are quite a few extensions for Chrome and Firefox that can export the data into an address book format. Cool, huh?
  3. But most importantly, this information can be used for Local SEO.

Local SEO

If you’re a small business owner or a local business, and have a business that you are trying to rank well in local traffic, hCards help…

One of the ways that you can help your local SEO, is to make sure that you put your address on as many pages as you can, such as the footer.

An article by SE Journal last week explained that the more places you have your address, the more chances you have at getting into the map section on your search engine.

Original penguin algorithm already showed that quality citations had a promising future and now it is clear that along with links, local citations or brand mentions will also matter a lot – post penguin.

Citations play a key role in local search ranking. This simply means that the more your NAP – mentions of your Business’s Name, Address and Phone number, is found on websites related to your niche and location, the higher your local search ranking will be. As the citation building is the essential ingredient of your local SEO, it will be very beneficial to build a strong citation profile for your local business all over the web.

It is also important to ensure that all your citations are correct on the sites like Yellow Pages, MapQuest and City Search, as it will help you in establishing your business locally. Furthermore, citations help in authenticating your business as it is nearly impossible to fake a membership in the chamber of commerce, a city or county business index, a mention in local online newspaper, or on a popular blog. Local citations will give your business information to the sources – which are relied upon by the Search Engines for valid and reliable business information.

This hCard allows Google to have the information to figure out where you are. Not only are you putting the address on pages, you are putting the address with detail.

The hCard is like handing Google a business card of your company. Now Google, knows where to look – helping your local SEO.

The Government Shutdown: What About Its Effect on SEO?

The government slimdown has affected the websites and social media presence of many major government agencies (hopefully you did not lose your .gov link).

But what about the Government websites that shut down?

What will happen to their rankings in the SERPS?

As we all know, you have to watch the changes you make to your homepage. Like every person in SEO or web design knows, you don’t want to add too many links to your homepage, you want to carefully monitor the content and keywords on your homepage, you constantly check your redirects, and you do your best to keep your web server up 100% of the time, but you’d settle for 99.9%.

But What Happens During a Government Shutdown?

The National Park Service is closed today, October 1, 2013 because of the Government shutdown.

Today, Google changed its logo to honor Yosemite National Park’s 123rd birthday, the same day Yosemite had to close its doors due to the government shutdown. But will Google still give the government websites great rankings?



Online, the National Park Service website is also shut down.

This morning, showed an error message letting visitors know all National Park websites would not be functioning, though information would be available through the Department of the Interior.

National Park Service Shuts Down

The National Park Service also tweeted:

So, What Will Happen to their SEO?

Will the rankings drop? They are a .gov site, so they get special privileges, but let’s look at a few no no’s for the rest of us .coms, .orgs, and .nets have to live with…

  • The homepage is in a /subdirectory inside a directory… Ever seen a homepage rank that far off of the root domain?
  • The NPS completely changed all text on the homepage. In fact, they have less that 100 words on the homepage. But they did give some great link juice to the Department of the Interior. Who?
  • They dropped all internal links. Hope you did not have a .gov link on the homepage…
  • They changed their meta description and have NO h1 or h2 tags on the page. In fact, check it out…

Thoughts? Will they still rank?