The Bird That Has Everyone Buzzing: What Google Hummingbird Means for SEO

Google recently announced that the biggest upgrade to their search algorithm was rolled out last month. This updated algorithm, dubbed Hummingbird, has many people concerned about SEO and wondering if all the work they’ve already done is now worthless. In the midst of all the confusion and worry, hopefully this will give you some answers and put your mind at ease.

So we know they’ve updated their algorithm, but what exactly is an algorithm anyways? The algorithm is basically the directions that Google uses to sift through billions of web pages and other sources of information so that it can return what it considers to be the best possible answers.

And despite what you might think, a new algorithm doesn’t mean the “page rank” algorithm is dead. Instead, page rank is now just one of many other components that factor into the Hummingbird algorithm, along with factors such as the quality of the page, the words used on it, etc. Essentially, Hummingbird is a hybrid built from parts of the old algorithm and new and better parts to result in an improved search experience on Google. In fact, Google came up with the name because, like a Hummingbird, the search engine is supposed to be precise and fast.

A New Kind of Search

In terms of how searching is now different, the biggest change involves the conversational search. While a traditional search engine would focus on finding exact matches for words, the Hummingbird algorithm has been designed to focus more on the meaning behind the words. Hummingbird pays attention to the query as a whole, rather than just individual words, to find pages that are a closer match. Prior to the launch of Hummingbird, Google had already been doing this within their knowledge graph answers, but now it’s being applied to billions of pages across the web.

So how has Google specifically improved? According to David Amerland, search engine expert and author of Google Semantic search, “First, Google has increased its ability to deal with complex search queries, which means that it has also gotten better at indexing entities in web documents. Second, it has got a lot better at relationally linking search queries and web documents […]”.

Another expert, SEO consultant and president of Archology, Jenny Halasz explained that, “It’s becoming less and less about the keyword and more about the intention behind it.” Rather than relying solely on keywords to gain insight into customer intentions, she suggests engaging with customers on social media as an alternative approach.

Implications for SEOs

What does all this mean for SEOs? Trond LyngbÆ, a partner at Metronet in Norway and senior SEO strategist, gives the following tips for fellow SEOs:

  • Businesses have to understand and adapt to the knowledge graph and semantic search.
  • Put yourself in a position to become the provider of answers that people are seeking.
  • Identify intentions, needs, and problems. Examine the queries and what they really need so you can give the people behind the queries what they want.

The bottom line is this: although Hummingbird is a departure from those old familiar ways of searching on Google, If you’ve been doing the right thing all along, you really shouldn’t have to make any drastic changes to your SEO strategy. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and success will be sure to follow.

Image: BethinAZ