Last week, Google announced the addition of a new animal to their zoo: Google Hummingbird, the most recent update to the search engine’s algorithm. Unlike past updates Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird is a full-on revamp. This is the first time since 2001 that Google has made such a dramatic change, according to the company’s search chief Amit Singhal, so SEOs have obviously been eager to get more details. Will there be a big impact on search engine results? Do we have to change the way we go about SEO? Has a tiny, flitting bird just destroyed all of our hard work? Luckily, no. Read on to learn more about Google Hummingbird and its effects on SEO.
If you picture a hummingbird in your mind—dashing through the air, diving down to a flower, drinking nectar with its needle-thin bill, moving so fast that it’s nearly invisible—you can start to see what Google was going for when it chose this new update’s namesake. Like a hummingbird, the upgraded algorithm is quick, precise, and smart. It is based on semantic search, so instead of focusing on individual search terms, it looks at the meaning of the whole phrase and tries to interpret the user’s intent.
This is a great expansion of the algorithm’s capabilities that should result in more useful, relevant search results. Google Hummingbird will be able to respond to complex queries in a way the algorithm wasn’t able to before.
So far, reactions to the update have been positive. SEOs have not witnessed any dramatic changes to their clients’ traffic and they aren’t expecting to make big changes to their optimization techniques either. However, Hummingbird will change the focus of SEO, shifting it from keywords to users’ intentions (but don’t be mistaken—keywords do still matter!).
This may require more customer engagement, especially on social media, and improvements to websites that make them more successful as a whole. Knowing your customer, as always, is key. Try to identify consumers’ concerns and make your website the answer to their questions. To do this, it is essential that you understand semantic search and utilize Google’s Knowledge Graph.
Overall though, you don’t need to worry. As long as your website has high-quality, original content and other high-quality, relevant websites link to it, it will continue to rank well. Google Hummingbird is just one more effort to separate the best online material from the worst, so if you’ve been creating quality websites that offer real value to consumers all along, you can sleep easy tonight.
Although the announcement of Google Hummingbird was made very recently, the program has been active for several weeks. If you haven’t noticed a change in your website’s ranking since then, your SEO is fine. And if you have, don’t automatically assume that Hummingbird is the culprit; Google often makes subtle changes to its algorithm.
This new algorithm allows Google to act more human than ever before. Instead of just dismantling users’ words, the search engine will try to understand their meaning and respond accordingly. Hummingbird is a fine achievement and shows just how far Google has come in its 15 years of life (it celebrated its birthday last week). Who’s to say where it will go in the next 15 years?