Google Hummingbird and Dental SEO

Google’s all-new search algorithm – what does it do?

Just over a month ago, Google introduced another huge change into the world of search and how it calculates which websites to return when a user enters a search query.

This was called the “Hummingbird” algorithm update and it differed from earlier updates in that it was a complete re-write of the core ranking system which they use.

Google is well known for algorithm updates, for example the “Panda and Penguin” updates which were designed to tackle spam and penalise over-optimised websites. However, “Hummingbird” is different – if you think of the overall search system as being similar to an engine and its component parts; the Panda and Penguin updates were akin to engine component changes e.g. a new oil filter whereas Hummingbird is effectively the same as a complete new engine – so quite a radical change and in fact the first complete overhaul since 2001.

What does the new algorithm do?

Google explains that Hummingbird is primarily designed to deliver better search results faster – so whilst this is an admirable development, it doesn’t give us too much detail. However, what has become clear is that Google has made major improvements in the way that it interprets “conversational” search queries. Pre Hummingbird, a search such as “I need an approved implant dentist close to my home” would likely have returned the best match for the words “implant and dentist” i.e. a focus on discrete keywords. Now Google is much better at interpreting the complete search phrase, so for this case possibly including where you live and that you prefer an accredited provider.  Consequently you can expect a more accurate result to be returned.

How can we use this to our advantage in dental web marketing?

This latest update actually offers some interesting opportunities. With the knowledge that Google is now better able to understand the types of questions that users type into the search box, we can use this to our advantage when we are writing text for our web pages and blog posts. If we answer the questions that are often asked by people who are searching for dental treatments on our website and blog, then we stand a good chance of that page being returned in the search results.

A few techniques that we can use are as follows:

  • a comprehensive FAQ page covering typical dental questions and giving appropriate answers
  • an extension of the above – an “ask the dentist” section where questions submitted by users are collated along with the answers given by the clinical team
  • a detailed glossary of dental terms
  • a blog – excellent for publishing detailed articles which are configured to answer the type of “conversational” search queries that Google is now better at answering

The new algorithm has been live for just over a month – what is the user feedback?

Unlike earlier updates which tackled spam and relegated lots of websites in the search rankings, the effect of the Hummingbird update has so far been fairly small, at least in that there is not much adverse feedback from webmasters claiming to have lost lots of traffic.

Perhaps this is understandable in that the algorithm update is less about targeting spammy websites and more about delivering a better overall search experience. However, Google never stands still so it is reasonable to expect new twists and turns as Hummingbird becomes more mature and Google continues its quest to deliver the best quality search results.


The Hummingbird algorithm update is the latest search innovation from Google.

This update, particularly the advanced capability to interpret conversational queries, presents good opportunities for improving dental web marketing campaigns, particularly in the way that we serve information on our websites and blogs.

For more information about this and any other questions you may have about search engine optimisation, please call the Dental Media team on 01332 672548.