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How Google Hummingbird may impact your online sales

On the biggest day of retail, Google gave to me. . . Hummingbird???

Many retailers are still reeling from the soar in online sales over the biggest dates in the shopping calendar


Notorious ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, which, this year, has been recognised by IBM’s Holiday Benchmark Report as the ‘biggest online shopping day in history’, are now behind us. Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on how Google Hummingbird may have impacted, or could impact, your online sales.

diagram of how cyber monday was the biggest online spending day ever in the US in 2013

Pictured above: Cyber Monday was the biggest online spending day ever in the US in 2013

Google Hummingbird has been the biggest algorithmic shift since the Caffeine update of 2010 and was officially rolled out on the 26th of September in conjunction with Google’s 15th birthday the following day.

So, what is Hummingbird and what does its advent mean for online retail? In basic terms, Google are aligning search engine rankings with what they deem to be more ‘conversational’ search terms. Clearly, this makes sense with the rise in the use of Siri, not forgetting that Internet users have become savvier in the way they search. Instead of just looking for ‘toasters’, for instance, people will look for longer tailed terms such as ‘best quality 4 slice toaster’.

It is crucial that, as well as considering the way people search, retailers take into consideration the devices people are using. More and more shoppers are turning to their smartphones and tablets to locate the best bargains during their Christmas shop! If websites don’t configure well on multiple devices the opportunity for conversion could be seriously hindered.

diagram showing devices used to shop online on cyber monday 2013

Pictured above: Devices used to shop online on Cyber Monday 2013

Back to the ‘4 slice toaster’ example, when an end user refines their searches so precisely, this clearly demonstrates a desire to find something really quite specific. In turn, this presents the retailer with a much higher opportunity for conversion, so it’s win/ win right? Well, not quite! Many retailers this year won’t have been Hummingbird ready, most likely resulting in the loss of potential sales.

In order to get the most out of their websites, online retailers need to position themselves to service these sorts of ‘conversational’ enquiries effectively, or, risk losing market share to a search smart competitor.

FAQ pages, for example, are a great way to position your website as a ‘go to’ for all things. . . Well, for the purpose of this example, toaster. Utilising the data gained through tracking the search function within your website will also help you to understand customers’ needs. Don’t forget consumer reviews on specific product pages, these can be the difference between position 1 and 2 in the search engines, which, on cyber Monday, can equate to huge traffic volumes.

Was your website Hummingbird ready this year?

Maybe next year then. . .



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