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October 8, 2013
What’s Trending – Google Changes Search: “Hummingbird” and What it Means to You

Are you among the 70% of people who use Google to surf the internet? If you haven’t already heard, Google just announced a complete overhaulof their search algorithm (the system they use to rank search results). Not a tweak, not a tune-up; it’s a completely new engine ranking the 1 billion searches performed daily. This massive update has been code-named “Hummingbird.”

Let’s go back to 1998, when navigating the internet was difficult, if not impossible. Does anybody else remember using Altavista, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, or even worse AOL? I still have nightmares. It was Google’s ability to index and organize the net in a simple & relevant manner that would turn it into the giant it is today. So, rewriting the code that made it all happen is a pretty big deal.

If you are now asking: “What has changed? How does it affect me? And what should I do?” We’re going to break it down for you.

What Has Changed?

When you perform a search, Google looks through its list of websites and measures 500+ variables to choose which results to show you. These variables and how they work is like KFCs secret recipe; there are only a few people in the world who genuinely know all of the details, and they’re sworn to secrecy. Sadly, this means no one really knows EXACTLY what has changed in Hummingbird. However, just as we know that salt and a fryer are pretty key to the Colonel’s sweet sweet delicious chicken, smart people have made some pretty smart guesses in understanding Hummingbird.

From what Google has released, and what a variety of pundits (SEO experts) have pundited (not a real word, but it totally should be), the top 3 guesses are as follows:

  • Less keyword emphasis, which means you will get a poorer result from just sprinkling common search keywords throughout your content. Google has said that their goal is to provide ‘answers’ not ‘results’. This means conversational search (think Siri on apple devices) and the overall topic(s) that Google thinks your site covers will become more important, while exact words will become less important.
  • Increased importance on “semantics”, which is a nerd term for labeling your website content so that search engines understand it better.
  • Focus on dynamic content. This means engaging your clients and community in active conversation about your industry, or domain through your website (blog), social media and other avenues.

How does it affect me?

Thankfully, it’s unlikely your website will disappear off the face of the Internet. That said, over the coming months shifts will occur. Sites with strong authority will do better. Newer sites with few link-backs and a lack of relevant content will do worse.

For those who are actively monitoring and working on Search Engine Optimization (by themselves, or with a company), you likely won’t see a negative impact, and may even see your site move up in rankings. For those who are less engaged in their SEO, or utilizing questionable third party firms (SEO spammers) who specifically focus on backlinks, this is likely to negatively impact site rankings.

What should I do?

If you are actively monitoring your SEO through a specialist, you should be asking for semantic markup to be programmed into your website. Content optimization that focuses on context and content, more than keywords should be a focus. Backlinks from authoritative websites in related industries with likely also be a big factor.

If you’re going at it alone, you need to seriously look at the content on your website, and how you can create conversation using the tools available to you. Update your blog weekly, create helpful articles, and engage your community and clients in conversation that surrounds your area of expertise.

From the mouths of Google’s press department: “Our guidance to webmasters is the same as always — we encourage original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.