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What is Google Hummingbird?

The SEO world has been buzzing over the last week after Google announced a bit of a bombshell called “Hummingbird.” So what is Google Hummingbird and how will Hummingbird affect my SEO? Those are both very good questions which require very good answers.

Google launched their new algorithm called “Hummingbird,” weeks ago without any sort of notice or fanfare. Quite honestly if you haven’t noticed any big changes in your traffic or search engine placement, either increases or decreases, then the change is not an issue; which is the case for most people.

What is Hummingbird?

It is a new algorithm that is named as such because it is precise and fast. This is the biggest overhaul to the way that Google sorts information since around 2001. Hummingbird is considered a search algorithm in that it sorts through the billions of web pages to “search” for the best answer to your query.

According to Google they started using it sometime in the past few months but were not precise with the exact timing of the switch because Google seems to like secrets. The Humming bird algorithm still includes many other aspects such as PageRank, Penguin and Panda. However Google is constantly upgrading and changing so it might just be a matter of time before something else is upgraded.

How is Hummingbird different?

The concept behind Hummingbird is a direct reflection of how people are using search engines. We used to focus simply on keywords. If you wanted to look something up on 5k runs in a particular city you might simply type, “5k run New York City,” into the search bar. Now with voice searches becoming more popular people are using sophisticated questions such as, “Where is the next 5k run in New York City?” as they talk to their smart phone or voice-entered search.

As Google has enabled this search option with their own software and applications there is an expectation that users would expect useful results. Therefore Google needed to adjust its own algorithm to help find the meaning behind the words and then incorporate that into how it searches through the data. For example, if you share your location with Google then the above search would start close to your house and work outward. By the same token certain words then add meaning to the overall question such as using words like, “nearest” or “place” would mean local rather than virtual.

Hummingbird is designed to apply meaning to what you are asking to better answer your question.

Is SEO dead?

Every time Google makes a change the first question seems to focus on the likelihood of SEO becoming a thing of the past. According to Google there is actually nothing new or different you need to worry about regarding SEO; the guidelines are the same as before. Google wants publishers to focus on original, high-quality content that provides value. Keywords will still play a factor along with social signals and other aspects that have been part of the search algorithm, but now Hummingbird will allow Google to process those markers in a more effective way, or so we hope.

As Hummingbird went live a few months ago, you would have noticed if your traffic has changed. However even if it did, Google has stressed that it might not be Hummingbird as they are always adjusting and trying to improve other aspects of their algorithm. Of course, if your site used what Google considers bad tactics, any drop in traffic is your own fault for trying to trick people.

Should I change my site?

Yes! Of course the answer to the question was already yes even before Google made the Hummingbird announcement. Things are always changing on the internet and by default you should look to make adjustments, even if they are just minor, regularly.

The key points that people should be looking at haven’t changed much recently:

  • Utilizing Google Places and Google+ – with the shift to local first for many searches you need to be found if you have a brick and mortar shop.
  • Providing quality content – this is what Google is searching for when providing answers to questions.
  • Using keywords in content along with headers and meta tags – keywords are still an important aspect of searches
  • Relevant website links – You need relevant websites linking to your own website.

The bottom line is that Google Hummingbird is not a huge, scary change. It is a logical adjustment that many people could see was coming based on the changes in how we are searching and exactly what we are asking. Google wants a person to find exactly what they want or need when they search. If you have been doing things the right way then your rankings will probably improve. The best way to look at Hummingbird is that it offers another chance to separate you from the competition.


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