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Google Introduces The New ‘Hummingbird’ Search Algorithm

At the end of September Google announced that it had been using its new search algorithm since the end of August. This is important for any business owner who is at all interested in their site’s Search Engine optimisation, as it is a very significant change in Google’s search engine.

As a result, there are a number of questions that curious business owners may like answered in relation to this change and this article serves to address those:

1. What’s a “search algorithm?”
That’s a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.

2. What’s “Hummingbird?”
It’s the name of the new search algorithm that Google is using, one that Google says should return better results.

3. What type of “new” search activity does Hummingbird help?
“Conversational search” is one of the biggest examples Google gave. People, when speaking searches, may find it more useful to have a conversation. For example, “What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

Before Hummingbird, your results might have been generally related to your topic or question, and Google may have pulled pages that only had one or two words from your search question. But with the Hummingbird update, Google should be able to understand the entire meaning behind your searches; it will be paying attention to each word in the search, so the full extent of the conversation is considered when displaying your results.

4. What does it mean that Hummingbird is now being used?
When Google switched to Hummingbird (which it did so quickly that no one really noticed) it’s as if it dropped the old engine out of a car and put in a new one. Google says — it’s built on both existing and new parts, organised in a way to especially serve the search demands of today. So although it’s a new engine, it continues to use some of the same parts of the old one, like the Penguin and Panda updates to it.

5. When’s the last time Google replaced its algorithm this way?
In 2010, the “Caffeine Update” was a huge change. But that was also a change mostly meant to help Google better gather information (indexing) rather than sorting through the information. Google search chief Amit Singhal told me that perhaps 2001, when he first joined the company, was the last time the algorithm was so dramatically rewritten.

6. Does this mean I’m going to lose traffic from Google?
The very subtle introduction of Hummingbird hasn’t sparked any wave of consumers or website publishers complaining that Google’s results suddenly got bad. If you didn’t have problems with your rankings since the end of August, then you came through Hummingbird unscathed.

Google’s saying this is very much a query-by-query effect, one that may improve specific searches (particularly complex ones), rather than something that hits “head” terms that can, in turn, cause major traffic shifts.

7. What’s Google’s response if I lost traffic?
Perhaps it was due to Hummingbird, but Google stressed that it could also be due to some of the other parts of its algorithm, which are always being changed, tweaked or improved. There’s no way to know for sure, unfortunately.

8. What’s the best on-going SEO strategy for Hummingbird?
Google says there’s nothing new or different SEOs or website publishers need to worry about and the main thing is still to have original, high-quality content on the site. Hummingbird just allows Google to process it in new and hopefully better ways, which mainly involves understanding the full meaning of a search query.

Since Hummingbird is focused on getting rid of irrelevant and unimportant results, this change should actually allow you to rise above your competition. If you’ve already been busy creating content and building links from trustworthy websites, the Hummingbird update will allow you to continue ranking high since Google is looking for those types of sites i.e ones that provide valuable answers to their searchers’ queries.

9. In what ways can I improve my site’s content and back-links?
Focus upon creating articles that contain a “How to” approach and that present definite answers to user queries that will help them, especially ones that aren’t widely known.

(A tip for webmasters is to use the revolutionary Schema mark vocabulary with rich snippets like ratings and reviews, recipe preparation time etc. This is the best way to allow Google to clearly understand the content displayed on your site).

Hummingbird has especially adapted itself to serve the needs of mobile users. Catering to a mobile audience by creating a mobile version of your site with a faster loading time, fewer images, easy navigation, etc. Users hate sites that are slow and Google always panders to its users.

The best way to let Google identify you and move from the anonymous web to the named web is by using Google authorship. People tend to click more often on search results displaying an author image as opposed to anonymous search results.

Following an ethical natural linking strategy through building relationships is preferable to acquiring links using the old methods of article syndication and cheap content marketing. Earn links by serving your customers well and increasing your brand value is the strategy to follow for the long term.

You can read more about these five recommended ways to improve your rankings with Hummingbird here.

10. So what’s the summary of all this and what does it mean for my business website?
Google has simply replaced its engine and made searches more on target with what users want and need in today’s world by improving its understanding of more complex, conversational search queries. So when it comes to Hummingbird, your SEO priorities should remain mostly the same, although creating valuable content for users has never been more important.

For more information about how we can ensure your SEO policy is optimised for Hummingbird, please contact us now.