Google’s algorithm, its way of finding out the most relevant search results that can answer a user’s questions, often undergoes various changes and tweaks. However Google introduced Hummingbird in August 2013, an almost entirely new algorithm, in the biggest change to the search engine for over a decade. Whilst it does use parts of the old algorithm such as the Panda update, it aims to completely overhaul the way Google deals with search queries. In typical Google fashion, it was officially announced one month after it was actually implemented, so many people will have noticed changes in their rankings – or wouldn’t have if their content was already Google Hummingbird friendly.
What is Google Hummingbird?
Google Hummingbird focuses on perfecting the conversational search. In many years of web surfing, people have learnt to speak the language of search engines. We’ve become used to typing keywords as opposed to full sentences and noticed which ways of phrasing a question deliver better results. Now it’s Google’s turn to learn to speak our language. There are more and more people using the internet on their mobile phones, and a rising number of them using voice search instead of typing their questions on the uncomfortable, still awkward mobile keyboards.
For Google to continue leading the way, it has to learn how people speak and understand how they will phrase their questions on mobile phones. It also needs to predict what information they are looking for and what related questions they might ask immediately afterwards. Google has already started putting the building blocks in the foundation of this method with the Knowledge Graph, where the company has improved the search engine’s understanding of subjects in order to make connections the way humans do. Hummingbird is building on the Graph, but it still has a lot to learn until it can become a real life version of the impressive, self-aware computers we see in science-fiction – although that is the long term goal!
It’s called Hummingbird because Google wants it to be “precise and fast”. It wants the new algorithm to understand each word of your query in a way that makes it easier to deliver the information you really want rather than showing you a list of pages that contain those words. If you’re looking for a local plumber to come in “now” for example, Google will try to give you information based on your location if you’ve shared it with the search engine, and also try to locate those business that are still open if you’re looking for out of hours services. This might not work fully for a few years, but the foundations for the sentient web are finally being built.
Why should I care about Google Hummingbird?
The changes Google Hummingbird brings seem to be aimed towards better understanding the person searching rather than have huge implication for search engine optimisation (SEO). Google hasn’t even updated the guidance notes for webmasters and content creators, insisting the same methods apply and will be as effective as ever.
As it was released a month before its official launch announcement, webmasters would have already noticed whether they were truly affected by the update, and were probably wondering what was going on. Word on the grapevine is that not many noticed changes in their ranking, although some may have to overhaul their long term search engine optimisation strategies in order to match the new Google mindset.
Knowing what Google Hummingbird is looking for nowadays has become more and more about knowing what your potential customers are looking for and delivering that information in an accessible way. Gone are the days of repeating key words over and over again. Links are still important, but they’re assessed more over relevance and the reputation of the site linking rather than the sheer volume. Content is still king, and always will be.
How can my site be Google Hummingbird friendly?
If you haven’t noticed a change in your rankings after August, then you’re already on the right path. The best strategy is to have good quality content whilst keeping your audience in mind at every word. In order to become the authority in your field – which should always be the aim – one needs not only to answer the customers’ questions but also to anticipate their next ones. Your content should be the most comprehensive, helpful and accessible source out there.
With Google Hummingbird focusing on conversational searching, packaging your information in a way real people find easy to understand and engaging is key. A question and answer style layout might prove to be the way to go, although it’s still important to feature keywords in the page title. Giving your customers what they want before they’ve even asked for it would be a good mindset to get into, and the best way to get all the way to the top of the search results.
For editorial heavy websites, both quality and quantity are important. Being active and updating often will definitely help be perceived as more relevant and beat your competition to the top spot. Posting regularly on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn etc is still a crucial part of SEO strategy, as isolated articles with no links to any social networks are highly likely to slip by unnoticed. Take pride in your content and promote every new update on all pages, and encourage related discussion and debate. There’s nothing quite like an engaged customer to help propel your brand to the heights of success.
We can help make your site Google Hummingbird friendly
It’s important to keep up to date with changes in the Google algorithm because having a great website means nothing if nobody can find it. Consulting with experts on how to overhaul your online marketing strategy to better match the values of a sentient web will ensure your long term success. We understand there’s no such thing as a quick SEO fix anymore, and everything needs to be done with purpose and commitment. Get in touch and we’ll work together to build an effective strategy to make your website the go-to place for your customers.
For more information or to speak to our Google Expert about making sure that your website is Google Hummingbird friendly, either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the enquiry form below and we’ll get back to you.