Google’s latest algorithm update, the Hummingbird

Google quietly made a huge change to its core search technology, one that affects about 90 precent of searches worldwide! They call it the Hummingbird.

Revealed by Amit Singhal, Google’s senior VP, it has been 15 years in the making. Singhal compared the overhaul to switching out jet engines while an airplane is in mid-flight.

And no, its not something you can download like an App, nor is it the newest ‘must have’ social media tool, and its definitely not another program that’s essential for your website to be fully optimised for Google. However, it is still important to understand what exactly it means for your website and your rankings…

 

So, why is it called the Hummingbird?

To answer those questions you have to think about what the Hummingbird represents in real life. Google called it the Hummingbird to emphasise and characterise the precision and speed of a hummingbird. The Hummingbird is an upgrade to the Google search engine that has drastically improved search results for those that use Google, people like you and me. It’s the new set of algorithms, which has leapfrogged over its out-dated predecessor that was designed before SEO was even relevant.

 

What is the Hummingbird?

It is basically like Google’s version of Siri for iPhone. Google will now better understand how words interact, connect and create sentences, to provide a much improved search experience.

An easy way to understand it would be to think of the change as an artificial intelligence system that understands more complex questioning, making it easier to ask spoken questions in more conversational phrases. To put it simply, Google no longer brings you results based solely on the most popular keywords. No, now with the new Google Hummingbird algorithm, you can ask the search engine questions that involve higher levels of semantics, the same way you would a person. Give it a shot, ask Google a more complex question and see what it returns. I really like to ask a ‘VS. question.’ Type in two things that are similar like Jupiter Vs. Saturn and it will return the basics stats on both. Or, because I still cant believe its not butter, I typed in Butter Vs. Margarine. Try it yourself.

If I type a question like “What is SEO” it will return results relating to ‘What is Search Engine Optimisation’, not just the results relating to SEO, because it knows that SEO means Search Engine Optimisation.

 

How will it change how I search Google?

It has been described as ‘conversational searching’ and it’s going to feel a lot more intuitive. Instead of thinking ‘what will Google return to me if I type these words?’ you can just begin to type whatever question pops into your head.

However the system isn’t perfect as it hasn’t had enough information and questions asked of it to refine itself, and it doesn’t help that people are in such a habit of treating Google like it doesn’t understand the human language beyond keywords.

Fifteen years ago “if you wanted to find something, you had to think of the right keywords that would appear on the right Web pages,” Singhal said. However people have become more laid back and comfortable with searching, especially when using voice-activated search, he explained. People are often asking longer questions that involve more complex concepts. “And our algorithm had to go through some fundamental rethinking of how we are going to keep our results relevant.”

 

What does this mean for your website, and what’s my advise?

In the near future as Hummingbird becomes more comprehensive and armed to the teeth with search behaviour data, it will become increasingly important to tailor your website to these changes and the ways you approach keywords. Well-prepared and clever content creators may benefit from such an adjustment, and others may get left behind. You want my advice? Stop with the sales talk on your website and start becoming more factual and helpful with your content.

Andrew Coventry

About Andrew Coventry

Andrew Coventry is the Account Director at Webfirm. A country boy at heart he loves seeing his clients reach their full potential online. With more than 5+ years experience, he is a specialist in managing and recommending digital marketing strategies for businesses.

2 Comments

  • Andrew Coventry Andrew Coventry says:

    I just found this interesting. When searching for things like “northcote plaza shopping centre hours”, I think we are going to see a lot more of this kind of thing:

    https://www.google.com.au/search?q=northcote+plaza+shopping+centre+hours&oq=northcote+plaza+shopping+centre+hours&sourceid=chrome&espvd=210&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8

    google.com.au/search?q=northcote+plaza+shopping+centre+hours&oq=northcote+plaza+shopping+centre+hours&sourceid=chrome&espvd=210&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8

    This to me shows the importance of Google properties such as Google Places/Plus!

    This is how I use Google to find information these days and I think this is how they are responding! I love it. 🙂

    You may have to start looking at Impressions from Google Web Master tools as a performance indicator.

  • Awesome stuff,

    Also this is a big push for semantic search which was first flirted with in the Penguin Update.

    The Hummingbird algorithm update that has hit the shelves lately adds a human touch to searches and also has a high focus on Mobile Optimisation as well.

    I do not know if you all read my blog post when all of this first started to be introduced but here it is if you didn’t:

    http://www.webfirm.com//understanding-semantic-search-and-how-it-will-change-seo/
    webfirm.com/understanding-semantic-search-and-how-it-will-change-seo/

    A lot of this algorithm had started to be introduced quite a while ago before it eventuated into this.

    It is very important to keep up to date with all the little changes that Google makes as they may end up in the next algorithm.

    I found that one of the best way to keep up to date with everything that is happening is to follow the updates for Android 🙂

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