Hummingbird takes flight, as Google throws the veil over your data.

The year 2013 saw a new Google algorithm in the form of Hummingbird. Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were simply additions to an ageing algorithm, Hummingbird was a total rewrite from the ground up which was designed to reflect the ways in which modern searchers search.

With a stronger emphasis on smartphones and tablets, Hummingbird reflects the way in which humans actually ask for information and for that reason, words which had previously been considered “useless” are now back in the frame.

But what Google gives with one hand, it takes away with the other and this year, the search giant decided to take away a piece of data that digital marketers once held dear.

In September, Google started reporting a significant amount of web traffic as “not provided”, a move which really made digital analysts take note. ‘Not provided’, which masked the keyword data for certain elements of web traffic, wasn’t a new issue but the scale of the change did catch many by surprise. Instead of a small fraction of your traffic being reported this way, close to 90% of traffic was stripped of key data.

Cross device tracking arrives

In May of this year, Google announced that cross device tracking and measurement was coming to Google Analytics. Using Google’s new Universal Analytics platform, which has an in-built ability to track individual users across sessions and devices, transforming the way in which brands understand the customer journey across devices.

In the coming weeks, Stickyeyes Head of PPC, Tony Booth, will be sharing his tips and insights on how brands can really make use of this development and revealing the next stages for Google in this very exciting area.

The end of “the SEO department”

Many have spoken about the death of SEO. Naturally, we disagree, but we do believe that the notion of an “SEO department” is dead. SEO cannot exist in its own silo, with a department of specialists cut off from the rest of the business. Instead, SEO is a marketing culture that has to be led and influenced by the CEO.

In 2013, search marketing really evolved to the point where almost every department, from IT, social media and PR through to marketing, media buying and e-commerce, were all vital components of the SEO machine. For many brands, this will mean some significant changes in the way they work, their corporate culture and the level of boardroom involvement in digital marketing.

Real-time content marketing comes of age

We saw some fantastic examples of reactive content from brands in 2013. In January, MINI hit the mark with its ad capitalising on the horsemeat scandal. In June, Etihad Airways, sponsors of Manchester City, spotted an opportune way to cheekily congratulate Manchester United on their title win and in July, we had Warburtons proclaiming that “one’s bun is done”.

Brands plugging into current events, and responding quickly, is a growing trend from 2013 and we can only expect this to increase over the course of the next twelve months.

However, it’s not always easy to get it right – as many brands have found out to their cost. Plenty of brands have really made a mess of reactive content in 2013 and ended up at the centre of a social media disaster.

Goodbye to Google Reader, WinAmp and AltaVista

But for all we gained in 2013, we also lost some notable names. Google, as it often does, pulled the plug on a number of its services with Reader and iGoogle cut off and cast away.

Away from search, early adopters of MP3 music mourned the loss of WinAmp – one of the original and much-loved music players from the pre-iTunes era.

And finally, a respectful mention to the search engine AltaVista. Launched in 1995, the search engine that gave us Babelfish was closed down by Yahoo in July of this year. Rest in peace.