The announcement of the new algorithm from Google known as Hummingbird is guaranteed to have sent many a site owner into a little panic last week. This is to be expected, following Panda and Penguin, two algorithms that affected many a site’s ranking, thanks to poor or duplicate quality content, bad links that may have been in an editorial or worse, paid for, and keyword stuffing.
However, there’s no need to view Hummingbird in a negative light. If you have a good site, with a decent link profile and quality content, then you won’t be affected. To begin with, it’s already been running for at least a month, or more like a few, if reports are to be believed. So what exactly does it do?
The name gives it away to a certain extent and it was apparently chosen to reflect the speed and accuracy of the new search algorithm. It contains more than 200 elements that help it to decide the relevance and quality of the results that are returned when a search is carried out.
Better than Caffeine
The last major update that Google carried out like Hummingbird was back in 2010 with the Caffeine Update. However, this was intended to help Google gather information more effectively so that it could be indexed. Panda and Penguin you will have heard of if you work in digital content and marketing and these made changes to the old algorithm, but didn’t alter the main ‘engine’ itself.
Hummingbird enhances the existing engine, as well as adding new parts to it such as the conversational search aspect. This means that it will be able to recognise text whilst focusing on what the meaning is behind it, by looking at individual words and what people might mean when they use them.
For example, it will recognise product and brand names, places and suchlike, so that if you were to search for, say, a Samsung Smart TV alongside the word buy, then it knows to look for retailers. Likewise, if you’re looking for things to do on holiday, it would recognise that you’re looking for information about a place, unless you happen to have typed in flight or buy, for example.
Basically, every word is now being examined to determine exactly what you mean when you enter a query. This is also being done holistically, so the engine is looking at the overall sentence structure and what words mean when they are put together.
Is it really an improvement?
Yes! While it’s far too early to say what the overall impact of the new algorithm will be, it’s pretty certain that it’s an improvement. Things are looking good too, after all, nobody seems to have complained as yet and those in the know are usually not backward in coming forward when things go wrong.
According to SEO expert David Amerland, Hummingbird if anything will benefit white hat SEO practices, he says that:
“From a strategy point of view this opens the horizon for companies and webmasters considerably. From a practical perspective, the need to identify the USP of each business and become authoritative within it is now a key criteria for continued SEO success. The comparison element that has been integrated suggests that semantic mark-up may begin to confer an advantage now when it comes to helping index information in products and services.”
He goes on to say that the emphasis on content being shared across social and influencers is key, but is not something that can happen
“at the drop of a hat” and that it “requires time and commitment to building a relationship with influencers and sharing with them content that is of real value to their network.”
This means that, if he is to be believed, there will no longer be any SEO shortcuts, or ways to boost content quickly or by using nefarious practices, but that SEO is once again a fairly complex process that requires time and work and relies on relationships rather than any other technical processes.
This means that for many of us, Hummingbird is absolutely no reason to panic and gives us every reason to believe that sites approaching SEO with an ethical mindset, that’s committed to giving its users a high quality experience, will continue to win out.