Friday 4 October 2013

What you need to know about the Google Hummingbird Update

What was the Hummingbird update?

Google recently rewrote the very long and complex code it uses to index the web and provide search results, calling this change the Hummingbird update. 

Hummingbird differs to previous Penguin and Panda Google updates in that it is a complete rewrite. Think of Google Panda and Penguin as new cogs in an old engine – well, Hummingbird is a new engine with some of the old cogs.

Hummingbird is a huge change to the way Google ‘reads’ the internet. Now Google better understands the meaning of words and how certain search phrases are related

Google no longer looks for websites with the best matching keywords. Google is looking for websites with the right answers to the meaning behind a search.

Why has there been less up roar about Hummingbird in comparison to Penguin?

You might find it surprising that the Hummingbird update affected 90% of searches, whereas Google Penguin affected only 3% of searches, even though the Penguin Update seemed to have a much larger impact with many websites losing positioning.

This is because the aim of Hummingbird was not to root out poor search results like Penguin and Panda but to enable Google to better read and index the web, in order to provide better answers to more complicated queries.

Websites and SEO companies that have been sticking to Google’s guidelines will have seen no impact on their search result positioning as Google has not changed what they want. They've always wanted to provide searchers with better answers. Hummingbird is just a different method for Google to get these answers. If your website is still providing the answer, your positioning will only get better.

Why was Hummingbird needed?

How people are searching the internet is changing, there is a move towards mobile, spoken searches and longer search phrases.

When Apple first released Siri, its voice search was powered by Yelp and WolframAlpha because Google’s understanding of language was lagging behind. Hummingbird is Google catching up with this area of artificial intelligence, getting computers to understand spoken searches.

Hummingbird will have a marked impact on mobile and spoken searches.

For example, words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ indicate the kind of answer a user is looking for therefore understanding of these non-keyword search terms is key.

How does this benefit us?

One of the benefits of the Hummingbird update will be more success for niche websites as users become more and more specific in what they are looking for. People use the internet more and more to look for answers to their questions.

The ball is in our court as SEO companies can use Hummingbird to our advantage. This is because a better understanding of searchers’ intentions, needs and problems enables us to better position websites as the answer. 

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