I’ve been talking about the death of “old school” SEO for well over a year now, and the most recent Google algorithm update called, “Hummingbird” was the proverbial nail in the coffin.  Old school SEO is officially dead!

In case you’re not familiar with my terminology, “old school” SEO can be summed up in one word: shortcuts.  The days of getting a website to rank #1 in Google using some newfound “SEO trick” or “Google hack” are over.  Warning: If you or your SEO company are doing one of the following, then you are doing more harm than good:

  1. Creating links on other low quality websites that are not related to your products or services.  The Penguin update and manual “unnatural link” penalties will eventually kill your rankings if you use this tactic.
  2. Creating multiple pages on your website for different variations of similar keywords.  Hummingbird makes this tactic obsolete.  Google can now understand synonyms and is only interested in showing one relevant, high quality webpage per domain.  If you have multiple webpages, then at best you’re confusing Google.  At worst, Google will penalize you for trying to manipulate their search results.

Those are examples of two old school SEO tactics that used to work, but will now most likely get you penalized by Google.  But what about local SEO?  How has Hummingbird changed the Google+ Local landscape?


Why Local SEO Is Even More Important

As I mentioned above, the new Hummingbird algorithm can now understand synonymous keywords.  Google no longer looks at keywords in isolation.  Instead, Google can interpret the context of keywords.

For example, when I search for “dinner in Flatiron” (Flatiron is the neighborhood near our office in NYC), then I see the results below.  Nowhere in my search is the word “restaurant,” yet every result is for Flatiron restaurants.  Google is even bolding the word “restaurant” because they know that’s really what you’re looking for when you search “dinner in xyz.”

Dinner in Flatiron

Can you see how this is going to affect local SEO?  More and more searches are going to trigger Google+ Local listings like the one above.  Not too long ago, Google was not able to translate “dinner in flatiron” to really mean “restaurants near Flatiron.”  Now they can, and they’re correctly showing the local businesses.

There are two driving forces that will make local SEO more important in the months and years ahead:

  1. Google’s new algorithm will continue to get smarter at interpreting the real intent behind keywords.  As just discussed, this means more searches will trigger Google+ Local business listings.
  2. Mobile device usage is exploding.  And guess what people are searching for on their mobile devices?  According to Google, about 40% of mobile device search is for local businesses.

So if you’ve been ignoring local SEO (aka Google Places, Google+ Local, Google Map Results), then now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.  Competition will only get stronger and Google tends to favor the businesses that establish themselves early.