Google Hummingbird has changed Google completely.
It’s the biggest algorithm update since 2001, has already been running for a few weeks and coincides with the search engine’s fifteenth birthday.
Hummingbird’s announcement was one hell of a surprise to everyone, and joins Panda and Penguin as another of Google’s perversely-cutely-named yet life-changing updates.
The biggest surprise though is that Google says there isn’t anything new that site owners, SEOs, or publishers need to worry about despite Hummingbird essentially being an entirely new engine core for the search giant.
Why Hummingbird? Because Google says the hummingbird reflects the algorithm’s “precise and fast” nature.
What’s changed and should I worry?
Hummingbird will be the algorithm Google uses to sort and return results and sits with Penguin, Panda and close to 200 other search signals when ranking a website.
But Hummingbird’s biggest and most impressive feature is its ‘conversational search’ ability. Approximately 90 per cent of search Google searches will be affected, and it’s likely being implemented because people are asking more questions online and want better answers.
Conversational search has the ability not just to recognise words, but the meanings behind them.
Say you were to search on Google for ‘Where is a good place to buy a newspaper?’. Hummingbird would ascertain that ‘place’ means ‘local store’ while it would recognise ‘newspaper’ as the item, and filter the best and most relevant stockists accordingly.
In short, Google will – amazingly – now recognise the request and the conversation as well as the keywords.
Hummingbird is the search evolution we’ve all been waiting for.
The world’s biggest help engine?
Google has already been applying conversational search but only in its Knowledge Graph, meaning hundreds of millions more people will now get first-hand experience of Hummingbird’s benefits.
It was only last week that I mentioned the benefits that help engines have on rankings and providing users with information. Hummingbird, to me, suggests that the user/search relationship will expand on this relationship further than ever before.
Especially now that more people are making search queries through voice activation through mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. Google now has an algorithm that it says is capable of understanding every word in a single person’s search query.
How should I optimise for Hummingbird?
Site owners and webmasters are already starting to worry about the ramifications of Hummingbird. If you haven’t seen a drop in traffic though over the last month or so then your site likely hasn’t been hit by the update.
And, don’t forget, that there will likely be tweaks and refreshments further down the line just as we’ve seen with Penguin and Panda.
But, as I’ve already mentioned, site owners have been told there’s nothing to worry about and that the search engine’s guidelines remain the best way to put your foot forward.
In short, make sure your site is answering the questions as best it can that people are likely to ask.
1: High-quality content
The first allusions to Hummingbird were actually made a few weks ago with Google announcing that it was giving greater search precedence to longer-form articles.
Information and the way it’s presented to users is key for long-term success. Not content stuffed with keywords and little relevance.
2: Participating in the conversation
Social signals are strongly thought to be a highly-important ranking factor. And, as we mentioned in our help engine article, it’s crucial that you become a helpful member of your local or specialist community via social media to reach out to new, potential visitors and loyal customers.
3: A natural and relevant link profile
Read: links from relevant sources from around the web that have found your content useful and want to share it with people for the greater good. Not hundreds of paid links from high PageRank sites pointing back to your domain via anchor text.
4: An incredible user experience
Providing a quality user experience and clean design is essential. Not just for aesthetics, but to encourage general visitors to like what they see and come back time and again to share pages with friends and become loyal fans of the brand.
5: Speed and mobile accessibility
Google’s a stickler for speed and wants sites to load as fast as possible, especially on mobile devices like phones and tablets. People are browsing, reading, and shopping more on the move. Making a responsive site that’s easy to access on-the-go is highly recommended.
Haven’t I heard this advice before?
Of course you have. It’s there for everybody to access on Google’s very own guidelines.
But despite the message being loud and clear for so long, there are so many SEOs and agencies out there seemingly determined to make Google far more complicated than it has to be.
And, of course, you shouldn’t be optimising your site just for Google. You should be optimising it for all search engines.
But above all that your first port of call should always be the visitor or customer that takes the time and the effort to visit your landing pages and explore your website.
All in all the success of your site will come down to how much hard work and effort you put into making it accessible, interesting, and the best in its area of expertise.
Set your site soaring
Now that everybody’s heard about the bird we’ll be keeping our eye out over the next few weeks and months to see how it affects search queries and how deep the algorithm actually goes.
SEO constantly changes, which Google has proved again by changing the rules – for the better, we say.
So maybe it’s time to have an honest appraisal of your website and how it reflects against the wider message of your brand’s voice.
As Google and its search policies move forward, can you say your site’s doing the same?
Don’t keep it caged up. Improve your site not just for your benefit, but for the sake of your business.
To find out more about how Google and SEO can work for you and your website contact Webpresence today!
(Image credits: Alistair Barr of USA TODAY, The Sunday Morning Herald, International Business Times)