Back in September, Google broke the news that they had, quite silently, made a shift to a new algorithm called Hummingbird. Not just an update to a current algorithm like Panda and Penguin – oh no – Hummingbird is a completely new algorithm and therefore a completely different kettle of…erm, birds. A completely new modus operandi, if you will, in order to return the best results for your query.
So what difference does this make to your site? What differences may it have already made to your SEO?
Should we be afraid of the birds?
Well, before I throw you into a mad frenzy at the unsettling thought of sparrows invading through the chimney or crows engulfing the playgrounds, I can tell you that – as long as you continue with good quality, interesting and relevant content – your site’s search engine optimisation will continue to fly, despite the updates.
In a nutshell – Hummingbird is Google’s next step towards artificial intelligence – a push to understand full phrases and longer sentences in a more conversational search method, rather than recognising just keywords.
As a (really basic) example, if you typed (and while we’re talking classic horror films), ‘The Thing’ into the search bar, Google may have previously thrown out the word ‘the’ as irrelevant. Whereas, the idea behind the new Hummingbird algorithm is that Google, recognising the relationship between the words, links them together and of course comes up with the 1980’s Kurt Russell sci-fi horror flick.
Of course, we know Google was already more than advanced enough to decipher this particular search pre-Hummingbird, but it serves as an example as to how, as the users search scales up in complexity, Google will now focus on concepts over specific words in order to better predict user intent.
One of Google’s main reasons for the change can be put down to mobile use and the way it’s affected the way we search. When I talk about artificial intelligence, I’m talking about the conversational quality you now see with web search on mobile devices with functions such as voice recognition – users have the ability to ask a device a question directly.
So, as a (slightly more in depth) example, a voice search query may now be more along the lines of “Show me places screening cult horror films near my house”.
Google is now more able to process the word ‘places’ through associating it with the words ‘horror films’ – you don’t have to specify ‘theatre’ or ‘cinema’. Of course, the success of the user specifying ‘my house’ depends on them being signed in to Google and having provided a home address in Google Maps.
So over to the big question – what difference has or will this make to my site’s SEO?
Well, if you haven’t already seen a change in your site’s SEO, then it’s more than likely you have nothing to fear. Google claims this to be their biggest overhaul since Caffeine in 2009, but interestingly, most sites went relatively unaffected by this change – most claim not to have noticed and huge change or a fluctuation in ranking. Also, despite this change, the Penguin and Panda updates that saw SEO make a massive shift towards regular, quality content are still alive and kicking and just as relevant as ever.
So, SEO – as we know it – is not dead.
This is not to say you should ignore the Hummingbird update. There are of course, ways you can improve your site to make sure it’s well optimised:
Create a blog:
If you haven’t already, you need to keep regular content flowing on your site and the best way to do so is of course with a well written, informal and relevant blog. Things like spelling, blog length and images are precedent, while adding audio and video to compliment your information is an added bonus that Google just can’t get enough of.
Which reminds me, here’s a clip of how the birds affected Tippi Hedren’s telephone experience…
Get that blog circulating around the internet – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn etc. Visual information like infographics and visual promos are great for sites like Pinterest and Instgram, while, of course, having your own YouTube account with regularly updated video content is almost priceless.
Connect with Google+:
Google favours anything associated with Google+, so if you blog regularly for your site, it’s well worth signing up for Google Authorship. Authorship will name you next to your blog in the search results and give people the option to view other articles you have written.
So despite the algorithm changes, you shouldn’t panic too much about the onslaught of the Hummingbird – but it’s almost impossible to escape the implication that pages simply require original, well written, regular content.