Google Hummingbird - How it will impact your SEO

By Hannah Eisenberg - October 02, 2013

The big news broke on Google's 15th Birthday: a new algorithm! The biggest overhaul of how Google generates the best search results since 2001: Hummingbird! But before you break out in sweat and panic that your rankings are going to plummet overnight, take a deep breath. While Google has announced some big news only a few days ago, the algorithm has been at work for a few months already. Also, it might represent a great opportunity for websites that offer a unique value for their users to set themselves apart from the competition - more on that later. Let's first look at what Hummingbird really is.

Google Hummingbird update

What is Google Hummingbird?

Google Hummingbird is the latest upgrade to Google's search algorithm. It does not replace PageRank, it takes it and over 200 other factors into consideration. It is supposed to provide more precise and faster query results and is based on semantic search, which focuses more on user intent versus individual search terms. It also takes the exploding penetration of smart phones into consideration. Why is this important? For example, my mom claims my dad is now married to his smart phone and he takes it wherever he goes. When he wants to "write" a text message or search for something, he will use voice command. Which is better than calling 411 all the time, but it requires a different algorithm to produce the best search results as spoken language differs significantly from actually typing a search query into the search box.

How is Hummingbird different from Panda, Penguin or other updates?

Where Penguin and Panda were merely updates to the existing search algorithm, Hummingbird is the replacement of the old algorithm. Google's replacement of its algorithm is not scary at all - it's purely a necessity to stay relevant in years ahead. For example: As always, when the market is dealing with the consequences of the mass adoption of a disruptive technology innovation such as email, laptops, and cloud computing, smart phones pose a completely different way to approach search.

Does Google Hummingbird affect my ranking in a bad way?

If you have a spammy website ... or worse hundreds of them that are linking to each other with no real content on it and no value for the reader, should anyone ever find you, then you are out of luck. Panda and Penguin have already penalized this and Google will continue to go after those sites. Danny Sullivan explains in his FAQ why Hummingbird is not the death of SEO (again).

No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways

Can I benefit from it?

While we don't know yet if Hummingbird is actually improving search rankings much, we have seen a jump in organic search traffic on one of our websites that we are working on. It's a very content-driven website featuring sewing and quilting tutorials. While the website was started only in March, it now enjoys on average 150-200 visits a day due to diligent SEO work and unique, useful content!

Google Analytics and how Hummingbird affected it

In summary, if you have original, high-quality content, and you have high-quality and relevant websites linking to your own website, then your website is still going to rank well. If anything, your website’s rankings will improve just as they should have after the Penguin and Panda updates rolled out.

Where is Google headed?

Let us look at some major milestones:

  • 2001 - Spell-checking in search
  • 2003 - Concept of synonyms in a search
  • 2005 - Auto-completion of queries
  • 2007 - Universal Search on all kinds of topics in one interface
  • 2010 - Google Instant for super fast searches
  • 2012 - Knowledge Graph to understand concepts and not just words
  • 2013 - Google Voice Search and Google Now (predictive search service)

Google Search Milestones By Inside Search Google Blog

So what’s next? Amit Singhal, Google's head of search says Google should answer your questions. The next big step is to have a conversation in a natural way, and Google will even anticipate what you might want to know.

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