The Latest Algorithm in the Google Menagerie: Google Hummingbird

google hummingbirdDid you notice that Google instituted a huge update at the end of August? If you’re like most SEOs, you probably didn’t. Even though Google Hummingbird is a massive update that is expected to affect as much as 90% of search queries, Google rolled it out with no fanfare and seemed to think that the update would go mostly unnoticed. In fact, Google didn’t even discuss the Hummingbird update until a month later at the end of September.

While recent updates like Penguin and Panda were concerned with certain aspects of Google’s algorithm, Hummingbird is more like a complete replacement for the algorithm. Penguin, Panda, PageRank, and other algorithms are still functioning, but Hummingbird is an entirely rewritten version of the search algorithm. Danny Sullivan explains that Hummingbird is like buying a completely new engine for a car, while Penguin and Panda are like replacements for individual parts within the engine.

What’s Different?

Essentially, Hummingbird is a more streamlined version of the old algorithm. It’s very similar, just entirely rewritten in order to make the algorithm quicker and more accurate. For the most part, SEOs haven’t experienced significant changes as a result of the Hummingbird update.

Hummingbird is intended to improve Google’s ability to deal with natural language queries. For instance, the Hummingbird algorithm is better at understanding complex concepts and the relationships between those concepts. For instance, Hummingbird can quickly grasp that a searcher might use the word “place” when they actually mean “restaurant.”

What it comes down to is that Hummingbird has a greater understanding of synonyms and when it is appropriate to use substitution in order to display more relevant results. In addition, Hummingbird places more emphasis on the meaning of an entire phrase instead of each individual word, which means that Google can now provide more accurate answers and solutions for searchers.

Focusing on Natural Language

Hummingbird reflects the current movement towards natural language in search queries. As searchers become more confident in Google’s ability to understand complex questions, they are more likely to use natural language in their search queries.

One reason this issue is gaining importance is the growth of voice search. Since voice search is expected to become more and more important in the coming months and years, it’s crucial for SEOs to start optimizing for the type of natural language used in voice search.

Since keywords are losing ground with the growth of natural language queries, authority is becoming the key factor for SEO success. In order to rank highly with natural language queries, you have to identify what types of questions searchers are going to be asking and then become a relevant, useful authority in your field. The Hummingbird update is all about the intent behind the query, so SEOs need to focus on providing solutions rather than just targeting certain keywords.

Do you think that the Hummingbird update will affect SEOs?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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