Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What does Google Hummingbird mean for SEO?

Google announced an entirely new algorithm for its search engine at the end of September, which had already been in use for a month or so. It's called Hummingbird. Because, you know, hummingbirds are fast and precise, and so is this new algorithm. We see what you did there, Googz.

While Google has incorporated many updates and enhancements over the years, including Caffeine, Penguin and Panda, this is the first completely new algorithm since 2001. Said to affect 90% of all searches, what does Google Hummingbird mean for SEO?

While full details of the algorithm are still unclear, here's what we know so far.

What is Hummingbird?

'Search algorithm' is the term for the method Google uses to search through the billions of web pages to produce the most accurate answers for users of its search engine.

While Hummingbird incorporates some elements of the old algorithm, including the Penguin and Panda updates, it's a completely new algorithm. It's designed to work better for the sort of technologies most of us are using today, with the aim of providing a more intelligent understanding of search requests. Fancy.

How does it work?

Traditionally, the search results generated were based on the matching combination of key words a search phrase contained. With the internet expanding rapidly, this meant we had to conduct multiple searches to find what we were looking for. Which was frustrating and time-consuming.

Hummingbird looks at the full meaning of search phrases, including question words, such as why, how and where. The goal is that instead of producing a list of pages with matching words, it will be looking at the meaning of the entire sentence or question, in the hope of producing more accurate results.

Why do we need it?

Part of the reason for this change is that an increasing number of people are using mobile or voice searches. Voice searches in particular use natural language rather than a list of words.

Therefore the future of searching is likely to be a more conversational search, or 'hot wording' as Google likes to call it. This will naturally lead to longer and more complex searches, which Hummingbird will be able to cope with much better than the old search algorithm.

What does this mean for SEO?

Google has announced that the guidance remains the same for SEO and content marketers: the emphasis is still on high-quality, original content. The difference is purely in the way that Hummingbird processes the information.

The introduction of Hummingbird should create a fairer playing field for website publishers who concentrate on long-tail keywords. With the large companies and brands dominating certain keywords, the semantic search results may enable small niche websites to achieve a higher ranking for longer, more complex phrases.

It's also clear that Google is looking for relevant, trusted content. In addition to looking at links from reputable websites and social networks, claiming authorship by linking content to your Google+ profile means you will rate higher in the rankings once you've established your authority on a certain subject.

While the full implications of Hummingbird are still unknown, it's hoped we'll see faster and more precise results, focusing on user intent rather than individual search terms. Yay!

Image credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net

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