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Have you ever had the experience of not remembering that other people don’t know what you know? I recently did. While I tend to focus on psychology/coaching, and then sometimes online marketing and social media topics on my blog, I realized that I have been staying away from tackling some of the technical complexities related to search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). I didn’t consciously realize I was doing this until I started to get emails from people asking about various search engine related content they had heard and read.

Since this is one of my areas of specialty, you would think I’d naturally spend some time on it in my newsletter and blog, right? Well, in my case- wrong!

So here it is- a state of the search engines, October 2013.  Ok- so let me dive in.

The two biggest changes on the search engine front right now are Google’s Hummingbird update and Google’s decision to make all searches secure searches.

Google is the largest search engine, sending conservatively 60-70% of the traffic to your website. As a result, when Google makes a change in the way they gather and show search results, this causes a big uproar in the search engine marketing space.

As you may know, Google has been, over the past two years, rolling out a new update every six months or so. Google decides to rank websites based on a secret algorithm, and each update in the past few years seems to be focused on a particular aspect of this algorithm. The ultimate goal, for Google, is that they want to make the search results they show to be the most relevant, the most timely, and the most useful they can. (Of course, Google is a for-profit entity, so I’m sure money also drives some of their decisions.)

Anyway, the updates began a while back with Panda and Penguin, and we’ve now come to Hummingbird. The Hummingbird update is probably about two-three weeks old at the time of this writing and so far, I’ve seen a few changes in the search results which I believe are attributable to this.

I have a slew of test sites that I keep running so I can monitor and track changes as they happen. On one of these test sites, I got a “thin content” warning from Google, and it stated that the site was not adding a lot of value by itself, and as a result, Google was removing it from their rankings.

Since it’s a test site, I didn’t really care, but it suggests that Hummingbird is really focused on making sure we have good and significant content on our sites.

The other change with Hummingbird is that Google is getting better at understanding the semantics and contextual meaning of sentences. This means that the search results will likely start to show websites that are written in conversational (but knowledgeable) tone, and include a variety of topically related words and phrases.

The focus of Hummingbird means that search results are moving away from individual keyword rankings and more towards clusters of keywords. It also seems, right now, to be continuing to favor written text over audio or video.

So what does this mean for your business? It means that SEO is changing. Going forward, there will be inherently less value in ranking for individual keywords compared to before.

In fact, Google announces they are moving to secure search, and this means they will be removing keyword phrases from their open Google Analytics platform. In a sense, they are less concerned now with individual words or phrases, and, instead, more concerned with intention and meaning of words and phrases.

For most of you, these changes will be positive. You’re likely to already be sharing good information, building trust with your audience, and speaking from a knowledgeable tone.

The good news is that these heartful and natural efforts are likely to be well rewarded as Hummingbird rolls out fully.

Here’s a a nifty infographic with 5 tips for staying ahead of Hummingbird: