How Does Google Hummingbird Affect SEO?


The Basics

Every time you search for something on Google, there is an algorithm for the results that appear based on the keywords and context of your search query. The Google Hummingbird algorithm was released in August of 2013 and got its name for being “precise and fast.” Although it has been two an a half years since the release of Google Hummingbird, I would like to review what the revamping of Google was all about and how it still affects us today.

Google has always used an algorithm for search, but the release of Hummingbird changed everything. For background, a search “algorithm” refers to a procedure that is used to solve a problem. The problem that Google tries to solve billions of times a day is how to find the most relevant search results for each user based on their search query. The Google algorithm is how Google finds results for users and ranks those results. With each algorithm change, some sites are penalized and move down in Google rankings while other sites benefit and move up in Google rankings. Although these changes are mostly small, some sites are greatly affected.

The Google Hummingbird “update” really was not an update at all, but rather a completely new algorithm for search. The new algorithm focuses on synonyms for your search keywords and the context of your entire query, instead of picking out and honing in on specific keywords. In other words, Google is able to judge the intent of the person carrying out the search; this is called semantic search.

For example, if you were to search “How much does an iPhone 6s cost?” the former Google search algorithm may have honed in on “iPhone 6s” and take you to sites with information about the phone and why it is better than the iPhone 5s. The newer algorithm would reveal the answer to your question without making you click on a link, and potentially even lead you to sites where you can buy an iPhone 6s or map results for Apple stores in your area. Hummingbird recognizes that if you are searching for the price of an iPhone you are probably planning on buying one and helps you find answers to questions you have not asked yet.

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The ability of Google to do this is completely dependent on user searches and Google’s interpretation of those searches. This means that the more people that use the algorithm, the stronger the algorithm becomes and the more relevant search results will be. With Google bringing in over 40,000 search queries every second, Google has a vast amount of data to evaluate searches with and update the algorithm to better meet user needs.

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The capability of Google to understand the concepts and relationships between keywords is so important because now more than ever people are using voice to search rather than typing search queries. The ability and willingness of Google to recognize conversational search trends and change their algorithm to benefit users shows their user-focused commitment and further emphasizes page content from website creators.

As a preface to Hummingbird, Google released their Knowledge Graphs in May of 2012. Knowledge Graphs use semantic search to allow users to find the answers they are looking for without having to click on links to website, making search more efficient. If you have ever searched for anything and your answer appeared in a box at the top of your search results with the answer to your query, you have seen a Knowledge Graph.

Here is an example:
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To get an idea of how complex the Google Hummingbird algorithm is, over 200 factors go into the algorithm that ranks search results; here are just a few:

1. Google Panda
Initially released February 2011, Google Panda lowered the rank of “low-quality” and “thin” sites.
2. Google Penguin
Initially released April 2012, Google Penguin decreases website rankings of websites that use black-hat SEO (try to increase their ranking by manipulating their number of backlinks).
3. Google Pigeon
Initially released July 2014, Google Pigeon increases the ranking of local listings in a search.
4. PageRank – how important a page is to Google
5. High Number of Pages
6. Quality Content
7. Links (external backlinks, internal links, and outbound external links)
8. Internet Mentions
9. Reviews/Ratings
10. Age of a Website
11. Videos
12. Organizations a Site is a Member of
13. User Experience Ranking
14. Professional Look/Design of Website
15. Keywords

How Hummingbird Affects Your Website

Honestly, it should not affect it much and if it has you would already know. What you need to know as far as SEO is concerned is that Hummingbird just reemphasizes the importance of original and engaging content, legitimate links, moderation of keywords, and everything else SEO experts told you to focus on before.

The only major change is that users are changing the way they search to using longer search queries and long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases, rather than specific words, which are used for search. Since the Hummingbird update, we recommend that you integrate more of these into your website to make searching for products on your website easier for users.

With the rollout of Hummingbird, remember that Google’s focus is now on users more than ever, meaning that websites need to focus on users and their needs in order to rank. Rather than focusing on ranking, you should focus on pleasing users, which will increase your ranking over time.

Here are some tips on how to create content that is organized in a way that correlates to conversational search queries and will help you rank:

1. Create “How To” Posts
2. Create an FAQ Page
3. Create a Q&A Page
4. Organize and Title Articles with Questions (“What…?,” “Why…?,” “Where can I…?”)

Remember, Google algorithms are always changing. At any given time, Google may change the Hummingbird algorithm and your business could drop or rise in search rankings, which is why you should hire an SEO Expert if you are serious about your web presence.