hummingbird near flower

Google Update: One For the Hummingbirds

Now that it has been a few months since has Google announced the Hummingbird algorithm switch, researchers and SEOers can finally start to completely understand how this algorithm change is affecting searches.

It’s Precise and Fast

The new algorithm change is not just an update, and that’s one of the big things most people are misunderstanding about the switch. Think about it like an AC unit replacement, rather than fixing certain elements of your AC unit. Google has literally switched out the heart of all its searches, and created a new foundation, keeping some of the old parts still intact (i.e. Panda and Penguin updates). This switch will focus on the end user’s behaviors, rather than changes in indexing or fighting spammy content and links.

The name Hummingbird comes from the idea that the algorithm change will provide precise and fast searches. The last major algorithm change occurred in 2001, with another substantial algorithm change in 2010 entitled Caffeine.

One of the largest changes from the old algorithm is Google’s use of the Knowledge Graph to provide better search results for detailed searches, making a search result a more personal response to a query.

Talk to Your Search Engine

A large component of the way that Hummingbird is by creating a foundation for conversational searches, so now semantic search will matter more than it has in the past. Rather than focusing on keywords within a query, Hummingbird will analyze an entire query and provide the best results based on what it thinks you are searching for. Yes, what it thinks you’re searching for.

Long-tail keywords

Hummingbird concentrates on whole queries rather than individual words and this means that it will have obvious implications on pages that utilize and include long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords have always been considered beneficial because they typically have a high conversion rate from highly targeted visitors. However, it has proven difficult to benefit from much traffic as a result of their being found on a page. Hummingbird will be looking at search strings of three, four, five, or more words and rather than breaking these down it will provide results for the whole search string.

Long-tail keywords, which are normally added to pages during the natural process of writing high quality content, may generate more traffic for a website in the future.

The biggest improvements involve longer search queries. Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it. Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers. Google has made search more “human friendly” by making Google better at understanding language and how people communicate.

Most people won’t notice a huge change in the search results, but for longer, more complex, conversational queries, Google now gives much better answers. For example, say a user searches for “Hair salons near my house.” Previously, Google would analyze each word individually and provide results based on that — so you might get a Wikipedia article about hair salons, some map results based on your current location, and home improvement websites with pages titled “my house.” With Hummingbird, Google better understands what you’re asking for, and displays a list of hair salons near your house (provided you’re signed in to Google and have provided them with a home address in Google Maps). The results match the meaning behind the search, rather than just individual words.

Analysts believe that these changes are heavily influenced by Google’s desire to become more mobile. As well as their mobile search engine pages, Google also owns Android which even has its own voice search capabilities.

Voice search naturally tends to mean more conversational and more natural language. Rather than searching for a one or two word phrase, people will be more inclined to use whole sentences, questions, and more complex queries when they speak. Hummingbird will be well placed to determine the most relevant and highest quality pages that meet the needs of the searcher. Websites that place well under the new algorithm changes may also experience an increase in their mobile traffic as a result.

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