Hummingbird new algorithm change by Google
Today Google officially confirmed the news that they had released within the past month of September 2013 a new algorithm to power their search results called Hummingbird. Why is it called ‘Hummingbird’ – Amit Singhal who is a senior VP and software engineer at Google says because it is accurate and fast. Those two buzz words are the focus of all of Google’s recent updates to the algorithm so let’s breakdown this new algorithm, and understand what is different and how it will affect your search results and your website’s traffic.
What is the difference between a new algorithm and an update?
An algorithm update is when Google add extra code to the existing algorithm in an effort to help it produce better results which are less influenced by manipulation and black hat SEO techniques. It is simply like spreading an extra layer of code on top of the existing algorithm code to update it and make it even more complex yet more accurate. Examples of recent algorithm updates are the Panda update in February 2011 which focused on onpage and offpage quality. Then there was the Penguin update in April 2012 which focused on penalizing sites that were over optimized.
Hummingbird, which was launched at the start of September 2013 is a totally new algorithm. Google has said that not since 2001 have they launched a new algorithm and not since the caffeine algorithm launch in February 2010 has there been such a drastic change in the algorithm. That doesn’t mean that Google ‘threw the baby out with the bathwater’ totally deleting all factors that influenced the old algorithm. It means they used the best parts of the old algorithm and ensured it was coded into this new algorithm. So the general optimization and SEO rules have not changed but there are a few things that you should be aware of with this new hummingbird algorithm.
What is new?
Google gave the explanation that this new algorithm is intuitive. Officially Google are calling the built in intelligence of this search “conversational” meaning that your search queries that look more like you are asking a friend a questions. The aim is that the search query will now bring up more relevant results because the algorithm will employ a variety of factors to decide what you are implying. Let’s take an example like “where can I buy a nice bottle of wine?”. Google’s previous algorithm would display results of web pages built around specific keywords in them such as ‘nice’ and ‘bottle of wine’. Now, with the hummingbird algorithm update, you will be displayed results based around specific data inputs.
- Your location in such a search will play a major role, since Google will not need to show you results for wine stores or online stores that aren’t local or that don’t deliver locally.
- Google can also see from your past searching patterns if you normally buy food and drinks online or prefer brick and mortar stores.
- Then Google will interpret what you meant by ‘nice wine’ – did you previously +1 a page about cabernet sauvignon? Does it seem to Google you like red wines more than white wines? Do your Google+ friends all talk about a specific wine from a certain region and is that a sign to Google that you’d also like a wine from that region?
This kind of artificial intelligence is the future of search and is something that Google is trying to serve you as the searcher right now with Hummingbird. No doubt the algorithm will need to be fine-tuned but this is a major step in providing the searcher with an intuitive set of results. Google can use a number of factors that the search engine ’knows about you’ so as to display the most relevant results that you want. This style of ‘inferred’ meaning within your search query or as Google call it “conversation” with the search engine, is meant to yield relevant results as if it was a “conversation” with a friend who knows what you mean when you asked that question. Is it an invasion of privacy? For those worried about privacy, I suggest living in a hole in the ground and returning to the 1920’s where your digital footprint is non-existent and you can be John Smith again. Search engines gather data using a number of highly intelligent sources that we both supply and also that are implied. Data we supply can be things such as age, location and even workplace etc when we sign up for a gmail or Google+ account. Implied is the IP address location of our computer, our past search history showing likes and preferences, social media interactions etc. As long as this data is stored securely I have no issue with Google using this data to make my life better. If you have no secrets to hide, why try hiding these kind of harmless details about yourself? What does this mean for me?
Over the past month there has been a lot of discussion on webmaster forums about changes in traffic and ranking for a variety of websites in different industries located worldwide. If you have seen changes in traffic (either increases or decreases) over the past month with little changes in what you have done on your company website, then it can be attributed to the new algorithm. Google’s message loosely paraphrased is – ‘there is nothing new that webmasters need to do different to respond to this update – keep making high quality content and sites according to Google’s webmaster guidelines and you will be fine’. The real change is that Google is now processing your website in a different way and hence showing it up as a result to more relevant searches (or at least it is meant to). Of course if you saw no seismic changes in traffic for better or for worse – it doesn’t mean that later tweaks to the new algorithm won’t affect your website. Always have your website SEO optimized in a clean way and always try to add value to your visitors – that’s the golden rule.
Your personal searches
If Google nerds have done their job correctly, you should start to see more relevant and personalized results show up when searching right now. This should all be displayed faster as well. All this sounds good to me, but I am yet to feel the actual change. Maybe that’s because it is impossible to do a before and after search test. But, all in all, if the results become intuitive and I have to click on the next result pages less, that is a change for the better.
Don’t forget your SEO basics
In conclusion all this hype and coverage about Google’s new hummingbird algorithm doesn’t change anything for someone who has always done white hat SEO that was in line with Google’s clearly stated guidelines. Stick to the simple rules of creating original and engaging content and continue to utilize meta titles, H1’s and body text keywords to signal softly to search engines what the page is about. Your amazing content should naturally attract links from strong and relevant other sites. But above and beyond that, trust Google to drive quality traffic to your site and simply make mind-blowing websites!