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Google Hummingbird Algorithm Update September 20134 min read

4 min read

What does Google Hummingbird mean for SEO?


Croud’s SEO Manager Joao da Costa, takes a look at Google’s most recent Algorithm update: Hummingbird. 

The Google project (initially named BackRub) developed at Stanford University has reinvented the way search engines operate. Sergey and Larry, Google founders, have always put user experience and results precision as a primordial factor for a successful search engine. Today, Google continues to evolve being able to predict users’ intent therefore enhancing the search experience and taking search to the next level.

Google Knowledge Graph

Google is very much reliant in acquiring and understanding data. When we say data, we don’t necessarily refer to email addresses, name and favourite colour, but we are talking about online behaviour. With the increase number of searches performed, Google Knowledge Graph has become significantly richer over the past years.

Understanding how users do things and the outcome they are expecting has entitled Google to predict users’ intent and therefore offer a more significant search experience.

We have all seen Google developing Semantic Search over the past few years but search really got exciting (at least for fellow SEOs) when search results started using artificial intelligence to try to understand user intent and the meaning of the query. Such change was a huge step up from only concentrating on the keywords and brought to light a whole range of additional query data for companies to focus on whilst addressing their online marketing efforts.

Okay, but what does the new Google update, Hummingbird have to do with it? Well, basically everything.

Danny Sullivan explained in his FAQ: All About the New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm
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. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Google Hummingbird Update September 2013What does Hummingbird update mean to SEOs?

Our Head of SEO, Ben Tullett, says:
My first thoughts are that, given that nobody’s noticed it, is that it’s true effects will occur over the long term and it’s been more focused on increasing the accuracy of search based on more semantic analysis of each search. This will increase the relevance of the results by matching the meaning of the query to pages which match that meaning. The overall impact on commercially focused search results appear to be minimal and unlike Panda or Penguin updates, there have been no significant drops in traffic due to (real or perceived) over optimisation.

SEO has been moving from being treated as an isolated discipline to being incorporated in the Digital/Inbound Marketing plan for quite some time now. With the latest spree of Google’s updates it has been crucial to adopt a holistic approach to SEO incorporating Social Media, Online PR and others will determine the success of your business online.

Taking SEO forward.

Now, more than ever, brands will have to up their game and consider a varied range of techniques to apply than simple SEO. Some of the areas to look out for are:

  • Keyword perspective: while in the past we used to fanatically focus on specific keywords now we have to focus on the group of keywords used. Using LDA keywords in the on-page optimisation and internally linking to references with descriptive anchor text will allow the site to focus on the meaning behind the sentence and how well they relate to the page content in question.
  • Website optimised for local search: we have seen a continuous appearance of localised organic results and an increasing percentage of searches coming from mobile devices
  • Google’s Conversational Search: focuses on understanding queries said in a natural and “human-like” way
  • The integration of Social Signals: adding buttons (Google+) for feedback, sharing & reviews
  • Trusted local listing/web directories/review platforms: ensure your business is represented in such “trusted” listings in a genuine manner
  • Local Social Signals: positive/negative mentions and citations of your brand/company on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and so on

As the Hummingbird update has been implemented a month before it was announced many website owners have nothing to fear. Most websites haven’t been “penalised” due to changes in the algorithm and if you have seen a drop in rankings, this could have been done due to other algorithm changes that happened in the past month. Businesses will, nonetheless, have to ensure their digital marketing strategy is aligned as further updates and continuous algorithm changes are likely to follow.

Google is moving from being an Information Engine to becoming a Knowledge Engine – what are you doing to keep up?