Is Your Copywriting Safe from Google’s Hummingbird Update?

SEO Copywriting for HummingbirdAs you may know by now, Google’s gone and done it again — they’ve changed the algorithm they use to give search engine results, and it’s got some content producers running scared.

The update, code-named Hummingbird, is focused mainly on what Google sees as the future of search: voice search.

Think about when you’re driving or out and about and you use the voice control on your phone to search for something. You don’t say “Coffee and WiFi and zip code 80021;” you say something more like, “Where’s the nearest coffee shop with WiFi?”

It takes a lot of math to turn that conversational question into a computer query. Luckily the math is their problem; the question is, what does Hummingbird mean for copywriting on the web?

A big change . . . that’s not really that big.

With most of Google’s past updates there were winners and losers; some websites saw their ranking go up and others (usually those that were trying to “game” the system with dubious search engine optimization tactics) went down.

With the Hummingbird update, the changes have been much more subtle.

You might notice that when you type in a search, you get more relevant results. The best example of this I’ve seen is that if you type in “What is SEO?” you’ll get more articles that answer your question — and fewer websites trying to sell you SEO services. (You find those by typing in something like “SEO service.”)

More than ever, content trumps tactics when it comes to effective SEO. (Tweet this!)

The good new is: If you’re writing great content (which, of course you are), Google is getting better and better are recognizing that.

Keep up the good work.

If you haven’t changed the way you do SEO in three or four years, you probably want to upgrade your SEO skills. But if you’ve been keeping up with SEO best practices, you’re good to go with Hummingbird.

Nevertheless, here are a 3 key points to keep in mind:

1. Don’t worry about how many times you use an exact-match keyword phrase in a blog post or article. Once or twice is enough to point Google in the right direction. Going for “keyword density,” as was the rage a few years ago, may even hurt your rankings now.

2. Use synonyms for your keywords. As Google gets better and better at understanding how people speak, it’s also going to get easier for it to recognize that “restaurant, joint, and establishment” can all refer to the same place that serves your favorite Greek food.

3. Pay attention to how your clients talk — when you’re talking to a client, jot down the words and phrases they use. Those are the things they’ll be typing in when they (and others like them) are searching for your product or service.

I also found this useful infographic on optimizing your website for Hummingbird; it’s got some great tips for the rest of your website and social media strategy beyond copywriting.
Copywriting for Google's Hummingbird
What’s your best tip or resources for keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of SEO? Please share them with all of us in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Infographic by

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. This is a great tip! I hadn’t heard about this yet so thank you SO much, Debra!!

  2. I was having trouble understanding the new changes, but this is very helpful! Thank you!
    Shanna recently posted…Scary and Safe: Hitting the Streets on Halloween with Help from Stride RiteMy Profile

  3. Oh I have never thought about this. I hate updates you are always having to learn new things with them. I especially don’t like them because just when it seems like they have all the kinks worked out, and you are used to the changes they update again. I haven’t heard about the hummingbird update, but with this post I find it very helpful. Thanks so much for keeping us up to date. I would love you to stop by my blog so we can get to know each other too. Thanks
    Renee recently posted…Finding A Nanny the Right WayMy Profile

    • Renee, I hear you. Technology changes quickly. It can be frustrating, just when we think we are getting the hang out it, to have it shift on us again. Glad you, Shanna and Emily found this post helpful in understanding the Hummingbird update more clearly.
      Here’s to your sweet success. ~Debra

  4. Great tips Debra. I hear you saying: It’s really about truly focusing on your ideal client and using their words. That makes a lot of sense for seo and for clear communication.
    Stephanie Calahan recently posted…Living the Mobile Life – Colleagues Share Their Virtual Business Strategies and ToolsMy Profile

  5. It is so hard to keep up with Google trying to keep up with people scamming search engines. What I do love though is Google looking to make search more organic and relevant. The tips you have shared here are great – especially the one about Key word density. I was using an SEO tool that monitored that heavily.
    Tai Goodwin recently posted…Your Marketing Results Won’t Get Better Until Your Confidence DoesMy Profile

  6. I never did get comfortable with the SEO techniques being touted and supported by most of the related WP plug ins. I’ve found since uploading them my headlines are suffering and so is the copy. I suspect in another round or two the advice will be for me to go back to writing how I used to before SEO became all the rage. Thanks for the tips and inforgraphic, Debra.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…What would you ask for if you could buy anything for $5?My Profile

    • Keyword phrases are still important and always should have been used in a natural, organic way, but now at least Google recognizes the variations. It is a relief isn’t Nanette?
      Stephanie and Tai, having a conversation just as if your client were sitting across from you sure makes a lot of sense. Always has & always will (in my humble opinion).
      Thanks ladies.

  7. Thanks for keeping us up to speed on the new Hummingbird algorithm, Miss Debra! This is very helpful when guiding my clients.

  8. Thank God I can now focus again on writing my posts and checking only for typos rather than thinking, if my heading says Woof Woof, then does my first paragraph say Woof or Woof Woof and how many Woofs I need. 🙂

    This is a great development for bloggers who blog from the heart. The rest follows. Thanks Debra for highlighting the changes.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…Is Uncertainty About the Future Keeping You Up at Night?My Profile

  9. Hi Debra,

    Thanks for including our infographic and I hope it was of use to your readers.

    I’m glad you’re writing about this as Hummingbird marks a significant shift and the linguistic semantic aspect is the real future of Search.

    Thanks and best,


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