On September 26 2013, Google announced that for its 15 anniversary event it had a new algorithm which would impact more than 90 percent of searches worldwide. They called it “Hummingbird.” Google employee Amit Singhal later said it was probably the largest change to the algorithm since he joined Google back in 2001.
The news of Hummingbird made some marketers nervous, in actual fact the algorithm had been up and running for more than a month before it was announced, it seems as though nobody even noticed.
Hummingbird allows Google to do its job better through an improvement in semantic search. As conversational search becomes the norm, Hummingbird lends understanding to the intent and contextual meaning of terms used in a query. With Hummingbird, it seems as though Google can now better answer longer-tail queries, even if a page is not optimised for them. Therefore, some pages may now stand a better chance of being found for certain queries now.
Some people may be worrying that their SEO strategy needs to be revamped, this panic isn’t necessary if you’ve been advancing along with the natural evolution of SEO. However, SEO now requires a keener understanding of your audience. It doesn’t start or end with keywords, it should start with the user and an understanding of what your user wants. Hummingbird is a great move for search results and could be a great way for websites to gain more visibility if they focus on the user and the content first. Google’s algorithm continues to be a complex mix of many factors that weigh the relevancy of a page for a query. This aspect hasn’t changed. I believe that the following points will still continue to matter:
Mobile SEO: Mobile optimisation is going to continue to be critical as conversational search is driven in part by how users search when on their mobile devices.
Google+: Google’s social network is vital when helping to identify your online brand and serving your content in Google’s results.
Links: Google may not want the SEO professionals to obsess over PageRank data; however, links are still relevant. Links help Google put concepts together on the internet; they also send strong messages to Google about the credibility of your page.
Keyword Optimisation & Content Creation: Nowadays, it seems that there is an awful lot of debate over the usefulness of focusing on keywords, keywords are not dead. Quality content is crucial, and that includes, at the very least, some level of keyword optimisation.
It may actually be a relief for some SEO professionals to know that with Hummingbird, it’s a clear message that website owners should stop obsessing over just keywords, and start focusing on creating a great experience for their users. “How do I rank for this query?” should now translate to “How do I best answer the questions my users have?”