Late last month, on their 15th anniversary, Google announced a major change to its search algorithm, dubbed Hummingbird, which had actually been active for over a month. Unlike the recent Panda and Penguin updates that affected a relatively small number of search results, Hummingbird may impact up to 90% of searches! So, what is Google trying to accomplish, and what do we SEO types plan to do about it?
With Hummingbird, it looks like Google is yet again trying to get into our heads. Where previous algorithms matched page content with keywords searched to index pages, Hummingbird tries to anticipate the intent of the search before presenting results. So, presumably, this means that if you were to type “electric motors” into the search box, instead of a listing of companies, directories and distributors of electric motors, you might also get results for model planes or remote control cars.
Yet another intent of the update is to improve search results on mobile devices. Many of us have gotten into the habit of posing questions to our phones when performing searches. As Google states in its blog:
“ You can pull up your phone and say to Google: “Tell me about Impressionist artists.” You’ll see who the artists are, and you can dive in to learn more about each of them and explore their most famous works.”
If you couple this new search philosophy with Google’s already established “personalized search” function, you can see how Google is moving towards highly interpretive and individually relevant search results across all platforms. This is not new to many of us in the SEO community, but it does confirm that we must look at things differently moving forward.
Where once pure ranking results were the primary driver for online success, it has become increasingly important over the last few years to look at on-page website results and conversions rather than single term ranking positions. This is even more important now.
As your SEO partners, we will be continually developing our approach to the nuances involved with the Hummingbird update. The basic tenets of SEO, which include a search-engine friendly site structure, well-written relevant content and a solid link neighborhood, still apply. Initial keyword research may change in that we will need to identify the most likely search phrases that your prospects will use across all devices and try to apply algorithmic “meaning” behind all those phrases. As always though, a focus on visitor experience will usually result in favorable placement on the search engines.
We will continue to keep you apprised as we learn more about the impact of the Hummingbird update, and as always, keep you informed of significant SEO industry developments.