Google has a new search algorithm, the system it uses to sort through all the information it has when you search and come back with answers. It’s called “Hummingbird” and below, what we know about it so far. To make sure you don’t get down into panic and plan your SEO strategy wisely, we’ve put up this short guide to explain what Hummingbird update is, how it affects your rankings and how to adapt your SEO strategy to benefit from the changes.
Google revealed some new features and ended the post with this:
We’ll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you. This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Hopefully, we’ll save you a few minutes of hassle each day. So keep asking Google tougher questions—it keeps us on our toes! After all, we’re just getting started.
What Does Google’s Hummingbird Update Mean For Your SEO Efforts?
No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways. Nothing has changed. If you have original, high-quality content, and you have high-quality and relevant websites linking to your own website, then your website is still going to rank well. If anything, your website’s rankings will improve just as they should have after the Penguin and Panda updates rolled out.
What type of “new” search activity does Hummingbird help?
“Conversational search” is one of the biggest examples Google gave. People, when speaking searches, may find it more useful to have a conversation.
“What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example. Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.
Unique Content versus Useful Content
While unique content is more of a Google Panda related thing, useful content although Panda, is maybe more Hummingbird. Google understands searchers queries differently with Hummingbird than they did before. So how can the search results not change. How can you as a webmaster change your content to make it more useful, while it still being unique, to encourage Google to show your site over your competitors.
WebmasterWorld moderator, Robert Charlton, explained it so incredibly well:
It’s no longer just a single page and its title satisfying a query… It becomes a whole site satisfying a range of users. With that kind of scope, the individual referrers are both less easy to specify and less determined by the landing page itself. Actually, not so different from what some of us have been preaching.
Don’t optimize for keywords, optimize for a satisfied customer from stage one of the buying cycle to the end. Is it that easy? What if you don’t offer all the stages? Well, I assume that is not exactly the point. The key to making the right decisions about SEO is to understand where Google is going. Google’s goal is that when someone creates a new search, what Google shows that person is exactly what the person wants or needs. We’ve all had the experience of searching on Google and seeing websites come up that obviously aren’t what we want. We don’t even need to click on the link to figure that out, because what Google shows us is enough.
So, how does this work? What is the process involved? In a nutshell, Google needs to understand the user queries. They take the query, leverage grammatical structure and boil the query down to one of these forms. They leverage user intent (and various other implicit signals to assist with determining this intent). They can then determine which form to map to.
In short, a simplified version of the process is approximately as follows, and this process may well change or be altered by leveraging machine learning. I would state this merely as an educated guess:
- Parse the grammar of the query
- Identity the form from the user intent
- Identify entity(s) involved
- Attribute synonyms
- Qualify what the user is looking for (refined intent)
- Determine what entities to retrieve
- Determine what properties those entities have
- Determine what to show the user in a meaningful way (the latter of which is device-dependent and needs to be attractive and engaging to the user)
Leveraging context and other implicit factors to understand the query is clearly critical, as understanding user intent is paramount for correct disambiguation and relevant synonym expansion throughout.
Google’s goal is clearly to expand on the number of forms and types of forms they can handle. And Google, as I have stated many times, is a master at big data. Google is merely taking older technology and making it work at scale. They can add new forms based on the combination ofsearch volume (for queries from incoming sources, namely user demand) and lowest-hanging fruit (best bang for the buck, the latter being from a computational cost as well as the possible Question Space they can cover). And so, they keep adding to the types of questions that Google can answer.