Google Search Algorithm Update: Hummingbird

Posted on October 10, 2013

According to Google search chief Amit Singhal, this new algorithm update named Hummingbird, is probably the most signficant since 2001. Although the new update was released over a month ago, it was only officially announced by Google near the end of September. Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were updates to Google's existing core search algorithm, Hummingbird is a complete replacement that incorporates more semantic understanding of search queries.

Wondering how the Hummingbird update will affect your site's ranking? Here are the top five things you need to know about Hummingbird:

#1: Bye, bye keywords; hello semantic search.

Keywords are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. With Hummingbird, Google weaves increasingly complex layers of implicit intent into search results, diminishing the importance of keywords. While keywords may never entirely die, semantic search - which relies on the contextualization of terms to improve the accuracy of search results - is here to stay.

Smartphones are driving the semantic search revolution, delivering highly localized and personalized search results. Google's Hummingbird update reflects this transition from PC-based searches to mobile searches.

#2: Complex search queries and Knowledge Graph work.

Google first launched Knowledge Graph in May 2012 with the ambitious goal of providing answers, not just links. With the recent addition of comparisons and filters, Knowledge Graph has become a lot smarter. Hummingbird increases Google's ability to manage complex search queries, a direct reflection of Google's increased ability to index web documents.

Thanks to significant improvements in Google's ability to relationally link search queries with web documents, Google's Knowledge Graph is substantially improved. Once again, semantic SEO, rather than keywords, has a greater impact on search engine results rankings.

#3: Conversational search is here to stay.

Hummingbird is much better at conversational search, a feature that will become increasingly important given the prevalence of voice search capabilities with smartphones. For example, let's say you ask Google "Where is the closest place to buy a smartphone by my home?" Traditionally, search engines would focus on matching specific keywords - in this case, "smartphone" and "buy".

Conversational search, however, brings contextual meaning to the words. Results for this search query would be influenced by "home" (if you have shared this location with Google) and place (i.e., a bricks-and-mortar store rather than an online store).

#4: SEO is not dead.

No, Google is not killing SEO with the Hummingbird update, nor will SEO ever really die. That's because SEO is not about "tricking" search engines by buying backlinks or stuffing sites with keywords. Real, effective SEO is about creating quality, original content that is relevant and sharable. Understanding the ways people seek content, including the words they may use, is important.

So too is creating a user-friendly web design that makes it easy for individuals to find what they need and share this information with others. At the end of the day, it all comes down to quality content. As long as your website continues to feature quality content, it will continue to perform will in Google's search results.

#5: Chances are your website has not been affected by the update.

Google quietly launched Hummingbird more than a month ago, but only announced the change at the end of September. That means unless you saw a dramatic drop-off in web traffic during September, chances are that Hummingbird did not hurt your site's page rank. If anything, Hummingbird may be helping your site's rank by continuing to penalize spam sites and show more contextually-oriented search results.

For example, Google said that a search for "acid reflux prescription" used to bring up a list of drugs to treat the disease. Now, the same search also includes websites with general information on how to treat the disease, including lifestyle-based suggestions rather than medication.

Bottom line:

Hummingbird's biggest impact has been on complex, contextual searches. To improve your site's ranking, focus on creating quality content and presenting this information in a manner that makes it easy to share and disseminate.

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About the Author

Steve Baik is the manager of AddMe. He can help you answer any questions you may have in regards to SEO, Internet marketing or buying targeted traffic. Feel free to contact Steve should you have any questions or suggestions.

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