Google Hummingbird: What It Is and How It Affects SEO

Google spent its 15th anniversary by shaking up the world of search engine optimization yet again. No, it’s not another Panda or Penguin update. This time, the change they put in place is known as the Hummingbird. Do not fret, though; you’d do a lot better by learning as much as you can about the Hummingbird and how it can possibly affect your SEO efforts.

What It Is

According to Google, the Hummingbird algorithm is organized specifically to serve current search demands, as opposed to the old algorithms that are designed with old technologies and are therefore better suited to serve search demands several years ago. The new algorithm is expected to be more precise and to be quicker in providing search results. Based on semantic search, the algorithm focuses on user intent rather than individual search terms. This means the entire search phrase or query is considered, instead of the individual words in the query.

Google Hummingbird

One important thing you need to note is that the Hummingbird isn’t just an update to an existing algorithm; it is an entirely new search algorithm—Google’s first since 2001. The good thing is that Google is quick to assure online publishers and SEO experts that it’s nothing to be worried about.

Why Hummingbird?

One of the most important reasons why Google chose to create a new search algorithm is to create a more even playing field for the “long tail” of online publishers and SEOs. At present, search keywords are generally dominated by those who can afford staying on top of search word bidding wars. With Hummingbird, things are expected to become fairer due in large part to the unpredictability of semantic search results. Smaller website owners therefore stand a better chance of gaining better SERP rankings when online users conduct a search using complex and precise search phrases.

When you seriously think about it, therefore, this new algorithm is really something to be excited about, especially if your website and SEO campaigns are mostly content-driven. Instead of giving your content strategy a complete overhaul, you simply need to make sure your site always has relevant and quality content to stay on top of the SEO game. This is especially true in today’s society where mobile search is increasingly becoming popular. Time will come when voice search will become the norm in mobile search, in which case, you’ll benefit greatly from the Hummingbird if you have a library of relevant content on your site.

With the Hummingbird, Google aims to successfully process “real speech” patterns so as to display the most relevant results on their SERPs. And though the Hummingbird is still at the start of an expectedly long process of algorithm development, online experts are already looking forward to the day when it will achieve its full potential. As Google’s understanding of search queries and query sequences improve, their new algorithm is also expected to become more responsive to “real speech” patterned queries.

What SEO Practitioners Have to Say

A Wall of Lips

The official announcement about the Hummingbird was made on October 3rd, 2013. The new algorithm, however, was rolled out on September 26th, 2013, on Google’s anniversary. Since then, a number of SEO practitioners have shared their thoughts on Google’s latest algorithm. Search engine expert David Amerland, for one, believes that the Hummingbird effectively expands the semantic capability of Google. He shares the observation that Google’s ability to index web document entities has significantly improved and the search engine has also improved its ability to link the relationship between search queries and web documents.

LEAP Vice President for Marketing and Media Christy Belden, for her part, believes that the new focus on semantic search can successfully drive SEO towards the right direction. For years, Google has talked about their efforts to understand the meaning behind search queries and the new algorithm marks the first step towards the achievement of that goal.

SEO consultant Jenny Halasz appreciates the fact that it’s now less about individual keywords and more about the intent behind a search query. She believes this development will encourage business owners and SEO practitioners to move away from the traditional focus on keywords and start engaging more with customers, particularly on social media. She expects this shift in focus to finally put emphasis on the important things, such as making efforts to deliver what people are looking for on particular web pages instead of just stuffing pages with keywords here and there.

What to Do

These are some of the best things you can do now that Google has a new algorithm:

  1. Focus your Search Engine Optimization efforts on creating a well-rounded strategy for content marketing. This involves finding fresh ways to cover every aspect of the topics your business is associated with. You should also find ways to appear more authoritative to both search engines and your target audience.
  2. Share your content across social networks so you can build a strong relationship with industry influencers. Sharing also helps you engage more with your target audience. It may take time for you to establish authority in this manner, but the results you reap will be well worth the time and effort.
  3. Continue posting original content of excellent quality and try to get a good number of relevant websites to link to your own site.
  4. Understand the concept of semantic search and adapt to Google’s Knowledge Graph.
  5. Identify the needs of your target audience and strive to be the provider of solutions and answers to these needs. If you consistently give them what they want, people will be likely to keep turning to you for information. This should increase the authority of your site.

The response to the Hummingbird algorithm has been generally positive so far. In fact, SEO practitioners are excited about it, especially since something like this has been forecasted as early as December of 2012. The reasons behind the development of this new algorithm are considered good reasons, which is why the SEO world is looking forward to witnessing its evolution and hoping for its success.

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