At the end of September 2013, on the eve of its 15th birthday, Google launched a new release called Hummingbird. Hummingbird is a very different creature, not simply another algorithm update, it is in fact, an entirely new one. To illustrate the radical change, Google abandoned the monochrome animal naming convention. The panda’s and penguins left behind, Google embraced an entirely more colourful creature, chosen to represent speed and agility, the Hummingbird.
The Hummingbird update is a new algorithm that uses conversational searches, as opposed to traditional key word searches.
For example, if a user searches for:
‘Website Designers Auckland’, traditional searches would show results for ‘Website Designers Auckland’.
With Hummingbird a user can ask:
“Show me the website designers closest to my location in Auckland”.
If the user has shared their location, then Google will be able to return the website designers that are located closest to that particular user. Basically, searching is much smarter and designed around delivering the best possible answers as opposed to simply retrieving data.
There is also a contextual component to the search. Google can relate second and third queries to the original query. If, after finding a list of local website designers, the user then asked about web designers using Business Catalyst as a platform, the second query would relate to the first. In other words, Google would know that the user meant which web designers use Business Catalyst from the list supplied in the first query.
What does this update mean for companies that have invested in SEO to achieve better rankings for their websites? That effort is still entirely valid and the basic premise of Google still stands. Original, topic-relevant information on a website will improve the rankings of that site. The Hummingbird update focuses on answering questions, therefore, when selecting or creating new content for a website, it is key that companies consider how users are searching and what people really want to know about its products or services. FAQ pages could be really powerful here if your site doesn’t have one it might be time to consider it. These pages provide opportunities to articulate the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for your company and create optimised, relevant content for your website. For information about how Hummingbird is likely to impact links, Eric Ward, explains it really well.
So, out with the black and white creatures and in with the colourful birds. It will be interesting to see what comes next, a parrot perhaps? The hummingbird is a new algorithm, but don't worry if your ranking hasn’t been affected by now it probably won’t be. Although the way Google is searching and displaying search results is very different, what remains very much the same is the requirement for original, high-quality content, that is updated on a regular basis.