Google Hummingbird Update – Moving Into A New Era for Search!

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Once again Google has named another change to their search engine after a seemingly unthreatening animal. There has been much speculation over what the impact of this update would actually be, with some expecting it to have a similar impact to the “Caffeine” update of 2010. Hummingbird is different to updates like Panda and Penguin as it is actually a change to the algorithm itself. Danny Sullivan, Editor of Searchenginland, likened it to Google essentially changing it’s engine (read more). Google commented that they named it Hummingbird because this new incarnation of the algorithm is “precise and fast”.  The Algorithm contains over 200 factors that contribute to how it calculates billions of sites rankings within Googles index. Panda and Penguin are just a part of this Algorithm.

Things that we do know about Hummingbird:

It has been designed to better understand the searchers intent when entering a query into Google. This change to the search engine is true evolution with a massive step towards semantic search with a focus being on the meaning and context behind words within a search query rather than focusing purely on specific keywords within a search.

Ammon Johns, leading SEO Expert, pointed out the fact that Hummingbird is the exact opposite of long tail search, as Google is moving away from looking at page content to match the search queries and it is looking at the meaning behind search queries. In this way it is also reducing the number of unique SERPs as it looks at the meaning and conceptualization of a query it is more likely to serve the same results for multiple queries that mean the same.

In terms of content creation to help with traffic sent from Google in a post-Hummingbird era it is clearer than ever that it is not about churning out as much content as possible in order to help ranking. This link was made clear when Matt Cutts produced this video this week:

Your content needs to serve its purpose as well as possible in order to enrich the visitors knowledge of the subject.

Links are still a very important factor in helping a sites ranking, but it is more important than ever to focus on gaining high quality links with natural anchor text. Essentially making sure you have earned them. I recently saw one site that had less than a dozen links, but these links were all from very high quality sources. This site ranked extremely well in a very competitive niche.

Links will always count as a major part of a sites rankings in my opinion as they will always be a good benchmark of a sites importance essentially being votes of confidence/relevance for a sites and its contents.

The Usual Scare Mongering!

As ever the hype around SEO being dead has been raised again and as ever this is not the case. You need to make sure that your focus remains on following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and creating awesome content that people will want to share and link to.  What it does mean though is it is being increasingly difficult for those that are trying to game the system and take shortcuts, which can only be a good thing. The evolution is so significant that in the last week long time SEO authority Jill Whalen announced that she is leaving SEO after 20 years as a figure head in the industry.

In the post announcing her leaving SEO she said the following:

“Finally, however, Google put their money where their mouth was with their Panda and Penguin updates. At last the only real way to do SEO was what I had been espousing all along. And it’s a beautiful thing! Today’s SEO blogs and conferences are bursting with SEO consultants talking about how, when you create amazing websites and content for your users, the search engines will follow.

Imagine that!”

A New Era for SEO

It is definitely a new era for SEO, with digital marketers having no other choice than to work hard at helping clients create amazing sites that are user friendly, have great content and aren’t over optimized with dozens of low quality links with keyword rich anchor text. This update has forced those that have used tactics such as creating low quality, thin content pages to pick up search traffic to readdress their tactics. If you want search engine traffic you need to make sure it serves value to any potential visitor. If you follow Googles Guidelines and make sure you create something of real value then you will be rewarded with rankings and traffic accordingly. I hope anyone that is reading this has already used this as their digital marketing ethos!

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