The way we search on Google is going through changes with the introduction of Google Hummingbird. Damon Segal, SEO expert from Emotio, explains how you can make your website make the most of this metamorphosis.
I have been driving traffic to websites for almost 20 years. And this year is no different from any other, where there is a panic as to whether search engine optimisation is a dying art. This time we’re under attack from a hummingbird. Well, not really. In fact, the Google Hummingbird algorithm is actually there to improve search results. All it means is that we need to adapt once again to meet Google’s criteria in order to provide excellent rankings for excellent websites.
Google Hummingbird is not just an update like Penguin or Panda as these where just modifications to Google’s old algorithm. Hummingbird is a new algorithm, which changes the way Google returns search results. The last time Google changed its algorithm was in 2010 with its “Caffeine” update.
The important thing to remember is that Hummingbird is not about finding people who are trying to spam Google’s index. It is about providing better results for the way people search today. Google’s Senior Vice President, Amit Singhal said, “This new algorithm is a big step forward in Internet history as searches will become more human friendly than ever. The algorithm is designed for conversational or semantic search.”
At the heart of semantic search is Google’s Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is a massive graph of real-world things and their connections, to bring you more meaningful results. It takes into account the context of your search for example your location, online behavior, trends etc.
Hummingbird is better able to understand the meaning of your search where we use natural language rather than query strings. Unlike old ways of searching on Google, Hummingbird caters especially well to voice searches on mobile devices. For example, the way we have learned to Google how fast a cheetah runs would be to type in “cheetah running speed”. The whole point of Hummingbird is that the more natural way to search for this would be “how fast does a cheetah run?” This is one of the primary areas that we will see search results change in Google. This will have a huge affect on results for long tail search terms, especially those that answer a question or human need.
We now need to cater for searches that reflect natural language. Words like what, where, why, how, when, who, looking, find me and I need are all possibilities that should be taken into account. This doesn’t mean we should all run out and create FAQ pages on our websites. It means that where content has always been king, it is now more complicated. We need to make sure that our content provides quality information that meets the needs and context of those searching for it. Searches like “show me the nearest Italian restaurant” will provide results based on your location. From an optimisation point of view, the owner of the Italian restaurant needs to make sure that Google knows where it is in order to show in a search result. Hummingbird is in its infancy; it understands some basic concepts and is just at the beginning of its journey. It will still be a while before you can ask Google “where does my wife want to meet me after work and how do I get there?” but ultimately this is where we are probably heading. The evolution of Hummingbird is likely to take some time, so I’m sure we will be able to adapt at a steady pace as Google grows.
If you haven’t noticed any change in your traffic by now, then you will have most likely weathered the Hummingbird update with no consequence. One of the most important things to do to adapt is to ensure you are building pages for the basic needs and intentions of your visitors. Having a great understanding of your audience and knowing how or why they will search for your products and services is one of the keys to success. Good quality writing will be rewarded with high search rankings. Keeping the content fresh on your website is more important than ever, so make your content original, topical and most important relevant in its context.
Otherwise it’s business as usual. Find reliable quality sources to publish content on and link back to your website. Make sure your website’s technical and on-page factors are following Google’s best practice guidelines. Finally, be patient. Great optimisation takes time.