How Google's Hummingbird Update Changed The Future Of Law Firm SEO
Google's algorithm is becoming more intelligent as updates are announced, and new developments are applied. One of the main reasons why "Googling It" was quickly adapted into our day-to-day lives was the convenience it provided.
There's this one actor in a movie you can't seem to remember the name of? Type "who's the main lead in titanic" and Google will serve you with a complete list of the movie cast, as well as a sidebar with extensive details of Titanic (1997).
Are you looking for a nearby restaurant? Type in "restaurants near me" and Google returns with a full list of restaurants in your city—complete with the establishment's contact details, hours, and customer reviews.
What Is Hummingbird?
As opposed to the Panda Update, which was released as an add-on to Google's existing algorithm, Hummingbird has been described as a complete redesign. While several pre-existing aspects of the core algorithm are thought to have remained unchanged, Hummingbird signaled Google's dedication to a more comprehensive understanding of searches to match them to more specific results.
Unlike previous algorithm changes such as Panda, which resulted in widespread reports of decreased traffic and ranking, Hummingbird did not seem to have a substantial adverse effect overall. It was widely assumed to positively impact the precision of Google's knowledge base, dubbed the "knowledge graph." On the other hand, the local SEO practitioners speculated that documented effects were felt in local Google search results.
How Does Hummingbird Work?
To fully comprehend Hummingbird's goal, it's necessary to first understand the search engine features it most heavily influenced—these are the semantic search and the knowledge graph.
Google introduced its knowledge graph a year before Hummingbird was announced. It's a series of SERP features to give users fast and accurate answers to questions about people, locations, and objects. The SERP includes both standard organic results and links to relevant websites.
See the example below:
These graphs can also be seen while looking for recipes, locations, how-to lists, and the like, quoting content from the top of the search to make it easier for users to get their answers.
Where the semantic search comes in is the part of the algorithm that identifies what exactly the user might be looking for and gives it to them as a suggestion. Even when the user's purpose is tacit rather than explicit, semantic search tries to match relevant SERP results to the language of Internet users' queries beyond the presumed meanings of particular keywords.
For example, if you type in "Cheesecake", Google will come back with a graph of a cheesecake recipe. You may not have included "recipe" as your keyword, but the algorithm predicts that you might be looking to make it at home.
The algorithm is even intelligent enough to suggest the most relevant search in case of misspellings. Don't know what a lawyer for employment issues is called? Type "What do you call a lawyer for work problems?" and Google returns with "Labor Attorney" and "Employment Lawyer" as results.
What’s So Special About It?
One of Hummingbird's primary goals was to transform semantic search from an idea to a fact; and would eventually become the industry norm. In hindsight, the Hummingbird update may be viewed as a step toward Google mastering the imminent rise of voice search.
SEO communities have begun optimizing for "conversational searches". In only a few years, the advent of voice search forces Google to develop the ability to fully understand natural language.
For example, take note of how users interact with Apple's Siri. Most of them would ask more informal questions—more conversational queries. Apple users don't say, "President of the United States" when they ask Siri. Instead, they say, "Who is the President of the United States?".
This is why you sometimes encounter "near me" and "in my area" in your SEO keyword research.
How Does it Affect Local Searches?
While the SEO community worked to comprehend the impact of Hummingbird on the overall site, the local SEO community dealt with some of the update's perceived consequences. Initially, it appeared that Hummingbird was populating several local findings with unsatisfactory "one-boxes."
While some local businesses may have had temporary issues with seemingly spam one-boxes lowering their local search engine exposure, most websites are unlikely to have suffered negative consequences due to this change.
If you assume your site's traffic or rankings have decreased as a result of Hummingbird, you can review a complete list of Google updates. It's possible that another redesign, such as Panda, can be another element that's affecting your website.
What Does This Mean for Your Law Firm?
As per SEO practice, this means you have to improve the way you optimize. You should be adjusting your headings, titles, URLs, and anchor links to cater to the new ways Google's algorithm is operating.
Here are a few things you can try:
Create Legal How-Tos
Infer conversational searches. Some users are not going to type "Employment Lawyer" or "Wrongful Termination Attorney" into the search bar—they might straight up ask, "How do you sue your employer?".
Try making step-by-step lists and suggestions backed by your legal expertise. When you're writing about car crashes for personal injury claims, try making a "What To Do After A Car Accident" and integrate ideas related to the services they might be looking for.
You can suggest ways to document the accident (like taking pictures and videos) or suggest they contact an attorney before speaking to an insurance firm.
You can also cover bulleted points on how litigation might go. For example, write about the possible steps a client is going to take during a divorce.
Use Question-Type Keywords as Headers and Titles
Not only do they make more exciting titles overall, some keywords nowadays can be fit into questions. "Where can I find Lawyers for Accidents?" or "Where Can I Find An Affordable Family Law Attorney?" are both keyword-optimized and interesting.
A Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Page can be an excellent way to integrate conversational keyword searches. They're also a good alternative to using headers like "other cases" or "additional information".
They're also suitable for inserting special cases that an area of law might not normally cover. You might have encountered questions like "Can I contest a will if I was previously disinherited?", "Are unmarried couples eligible for spousal support?", or "what if the defendant was an uninsured driver?".
FAQs are also great for refreshing older content when new legislation or global events come up. For example, you can add FAQs to Employment Law content to acknowledge changes in labor law under COVID-19.
"Google It" is Part of the Modern Vocabulary
As a general thought, keeping up with the newest marketing trends is good. However, search engines—and especially Google—have become the new staple of our day-to-day lives. SEO is no longer a niche trick that you can add to your marketing budget; it's almost a given in this technology-driven ecosystem.
Whether you're a beginner or an SEO enthusiast, revisiting learning materials, learning and practicing is a must. Guides like these are made so you can always come back to them when you need to.
And you have to consult it many times over? That's alright, too. Practicing SEO is constantly learning, updating, and adapting. The more you read up and catch up, the more successful you'll be.