Amit Singhal launches Google's biggest update in 10 yearsAnnounced on the 26th of September 2013, Hummingbird is Google's latest algorithm release. More than just an update, Google Hummingbird is a completely new search algorithm. Effectively, Google has completely replaced the existing system in its biggest update in over 10 years.
How is Google Hummingbird different?The way that people search has changed considerably over the past few years. A few years ago, most people searched with short phrases using keywords. For example 'hotels Spain' is a search query people would have used five years ago. Nowadays, everyone has become far more search savvy and uses specific, longer search queries to find what they need more accurately. People are more likely to search with longer phrases such as 'what are the best Barcelona hotels to stay in'.
The rise of conversational searchYou can see this in data from Google Trends. The graph above shows searches for 'hotels Spain' - there has been a steady decline in searches over the past several years. In contrast, the graph above shows searches for 'where to stay in Barcelona' - with clear growth in popularity. Significantly, this query does not include the keyword 'hotel'.
What do Google's changes mean for my business?What does this mean for you as a business owner then? Fundamentally, the way people search for your product or service has changed considerably. Focusing on money keywords is no longer where the money's at. Additionally, people may use search queries such as 'I need a plumber'. The previous algorithm would have only looked at the keyword 'plumber'. Google Hummingbird will work to identify more accurately that the user is most likely looking for a plumber near where they are and return local search results. A strong local presence in search may be more important for your business than keyword ranking. A good example of this is the rise in voice search. Google's smartphone apps place voice search as the core search mechanic and no longer a text query. People don't speak in keyword driven search queries, most of the time we don’t even speak in sentences. It makes sense for Google to shift away from this to offer the simplest and most effective user experience.
Will Google Hummingbird affect my website?While Panda and Penguin saw a significant flux in the SEO industry and lay to rest many poor quality SEO strategies, Hummingbird has largely been welcomed. It shouldn't mean you need to do anything differently to market your website. Google is quite clear in their quality guidelines on what makes a good website. Focus on:
- Quality, not quantity
- Ensure your website's usability makes it easy for your visitors
- Focus on content that people will engage with
- Never forget that your customers are the most important element - you can drive traffic to your website through different channels but the user experience is fundamental to all
"In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their websites by creating high-quality websites that users will want to use and share." - Google Quality Guidelines