The mobile sector is again flexing its muscle by influencing the direction of search giant Google’s brand new search algorithm update—Hummingbird. The name reflects Google’s goal of being “precise and fast.” Google made the announcement on September 26, and it marks the first completely new search algorithm since 2001, and the first major update since Caffeine in 2010. With Caffeine, Google focused on tighter integration of crawling and indexation resulting in a “50% fresher index” and a boost in raw speed. Hummingbird’s changes are less about speed and more about understanding.
Semantics. In the past, searches were built around keywords, not language. Google saw that the biggest increase in search queries was coming from mobile devices in the form of voice searches. Of course, these voice searches use natural language and aren’t likely to contain mainly keywords. Hummingbird will consider questions based on the word they begin with, like “what”, “where”, and “why”, and how these words connect to the content keywords. Therefore, instead of producing results, Hummingbird produces answers.
Danny Sullivan, an established search industry insider, had this to say after speaking with Google’s Amit Singhai and Ben Gomes;
“Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words; it may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that ‘place’ means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that ‘iPhone 5s’ is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words.”
Siri. Google is the unchallenged leader in search engines but the current most-used medium for voice-based search is Siri, Apple’s iPhone assistant. Siri uses the semantic search abilities of WolframAlpha, which launched their version of semantic search in 2012. It seems likely that this influenced Google’s new direction—at least in part.
Keywords. The fat lady does indeed appear to be singing for the venerable SEO tool, the keyword. Having already discontinued the popular Keyword Tool, and making the move to encrypt all searches by default, Google is making keywords less and less a factor in search engine ranking. The smarter Hummingbird gets, the less likely keywords will have an effect.
Webmasters that are concerned major changes could have a negative impact; consider that Google actually launched Hummingbird over a month ago. If there haven’t been any issues, things will probably be just fine—at least in the short term.
A smarter search engine
Since the creation of Google as a simple search engine in 1998, they have worked hard to create a smarter search engine. Originally, it simply looked for words a user typed in and showed the results of the search. To say Google has come a long way from those humble page counting beginnings would be an understatement. Google updates, over time, has turned their search engine from a simple game of seek and find to a program that actually thinks about the words you are looking for and what you mean by them.
Google has always closely guarded its algorithms, protecting them from not only others who want to steal them, but from people who wanted to manipulate and control them. They have tweaked their algorithm many times for better search results, turning away from SEO and focusing more on content. However, their latest update has completely changed the game. Nicknamed Hummingbird, it is a completely new algorithm. Rather than simply updating to improve search results, the new algorithm thinks about what you are saying and puts it into context. Previous algorithms would drop certain words from the search and simply work off of keywords. However, Hummingbird takes the entire entry into consideration. Making longer search entries, whole phrases, sentences, or questions, more desirable to give Hummingbird context as to what you are looking for.
According to Entrepreneur, this is going to affect how businesses handle marketing. Moving away from keyword dense content has already started, with more content marketing taking place. However, they also recommend that businesses ensure that their websites are mobile-friendly. Google’s new Hummingbird is optimized to handle the voice to text that many mobile users use, as well as a shift towards more “natural language” recognition. Also, Entrepreneur recommends that you provide value-focused content. This means providing content that answers questions, results, and useful information. The ability of users to ask Google questions means that Google will be looking for answers to those questions. Providing useful information is going to be key to showing up in the Google SERPs.
As Google, and its users, get smarter businesses need to be smarter about how they promote their business and their websites. The intuitive nature of Google’s new algorithm takes the search engine abilities to a new level. Businesses need to rise to the challenge of providing the content that Hummingbird, and its users, are looking for. If you have questions about how to improve your website to meet these new challenges, or need help marketing your website successfully, contact us. We specialize in optimizing your webpage results.
But don’t worry, Google isn’t trying to read your mind… yet. That comes with the next update.
Flagstone Search Marketing can help you find the new search engine solutions for Hummingbird. Contact us today to find out how. For all the search engine news and updates, follow @flagstonesm.