Date Published: 08-Nov-2013 | By: Shane K Morgan
Search engine giant, Google, frequently updates and refreshes its algorithm (believe it or not, it does 500 to 600 changes in a year) to provide better results to its users. While many of these changes are minor, some are major. Recent change i.e., “Hummingbird” is the major change in Google search since 2010 (Caffeine – June 2010). Hummingbird is not an update or data refresh but it is entirely a new search algorithm. Google announced Hummingbird on the occassion of its fifteenth anniversary on September 27, 2013 (But actually it got rolled out a month earlier). It affected 90% of search results.
How Hummingbird works
Hummingbird got its name because it is “fast and precise” says Amit Singhal, SVP, Google Search. It is a smarter search algorithm. It can answer searcher’s complex questions, it can filter the answers and compare data at a glance. Mobile search and voice search are the key driving forces behind Hummingbird.
- Conversational and natural search – Google is trying to make the search process more natural and conversational. It is more effective on long and complex queries. It is expanding the use of knowledge graph for this purpose.For example, if you search using the keywords, “Where is Phoenix?” it will show you the relevant results. Earlier, all such queries were directed to Q&A sites or it would display results matching the keywords “Phoenix” and “where”. Hummingbird can also understand the sequence of queries asked. So, if your query is “How many people live there?” search engine understands that “there” means “Phoenix”.
- Mobile and voice search – There is a rapid increase in the number of mobile users and mobile searches. According to comScore study, total number of mobile searchers in US grew by 26% between March and December, 2012, i.e., from 90.1 million to 113.1 million. Hummingbird is more helpful for mobile searchers because users can search by asking naturally over their phones by using voice applications like Siri, etc.User can ask “Where is Phoenix?” and “How many people live there?” instead of typing. Hummingbird is making life easier for mobile users.
- Meaning behind the words – Hummingbird understands concepts and the relationships between the concepts, not just matches the keywords. Earlier, Google used to consider only keywords and displayed results that are matching with those keywords. But, Hummingbird considers all the words and understands the meaning and intention behind the words and displays the best matching results to searchers.For example, if you search “Where is Apple store near my house”, Hummingbird will identify your location and gives you addresses of Apple stores near your place. It considers all words and understands the meaning behind it. Earlier, it would take only words like “Apple”, “store” and “house” and give you results matching with those keywords.
- Uses knowledge graph – Hummingbird expands the use of Knowledge Graph (Google summarizes relevant content and all facts that a searcher is likely to know about topic), which was introduced last year. It takes into account the context, timeliness, knowledge graph data and location (if registered and signed in) for every query.For example, if you search for “Albert Einstein” it displays all the information about him like inventions, awards, education, when he was born and dead, etc., and also suggests information about related people.
- Compare data – Hummingbird also includes comparison tool that can compare two given things or products.For example, you can compare dog breeds, celestial objects, olive oil and butter, etc. Try searching for “compare pekingese and shih tzu” or “compare Earth and Mars”, etc. More topics are getting added in a near future says Amit Singhal.
Content is still king for Google
Google continues to give importance to content. Content is still king for Google. In order not to get hit by Hummingbird, content of your website must be authoritative and relevant. Content should be built keeping user’s context and concept in mind.
Authorship is important – Besides content, authorship is also an important factor in search engine rankings. It is necessary to create and constantly update the author account. Registering on Google+ would be an added advantage.
Effects of Hummingbird on SEO
There are many false assumptions and rumours that SEO is dead after Hummingbird. But there is nothing as such. Rumours are common after every significant change in Google’s algorithm.
According to Google, nothing has really changed for SEOs and webmaster’s guidelines remain the same. Google considers 200 plus factors for ranking a website like original and high-quality content, links from relevant websites, user-friendly navigation of the website, etc., and criteria is same after Hummingbird also. SEO should be less about matching keywords and more about user engagement identifying their needs and intent. SEOs should optimize their website by keeping users and their needs in mind rather than optimizing to impress search engines.
Things small business owners should know about Hummingbird
- Content on your website should be fresh, authoritative and relevant. It should be able to address the queries and the intention of searchers.
- Having a well-designed website with quality content is just not enough. It has to build authority by gaining high-quality and relevant links. Engage with customers on social media.