Google update: A little bird told us…

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Written by Victoria Louise Crump-Haill – Digital Strategist / Account Director

The Google Hummingbird update came into play about a month ago… and even some SEO experts weren’t aware of its appearance until Google announced it last week. But this new algorithm is perhaps the biggest change to happen to Google’s functionality over the last 10 years. If it’s left you a little confused, don’t panic, we have all the answers below. We have even asked a few of our friends at other agencies for their opinions too.

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So what is Hummingbird?

  • Google has created a new algorithm codenamed Hummingbird, which will affect about 90% of Google searches.
  • It’s an update that is particularly useful for longer and more complex search queries.
  • The importance has shifted from the keywords in your search, to the meaning of your search.

But what does that mean for me?

  • Search results will become more contextual, specific, targeted and accurate.
  • It will make searching for answers with your mobile much easier.
  • The experience of voice search will dramatically improve and the use of voice search is predicted to rise.
  • If you bought Google Glass, the update would be essential!

So why has it happened?

As users now expect more conversational interactions with the search engine, it’s important that Google is able to understand these queries and respond with the most useful answers. For example, if you asked Google “What’s the name of the US president?” you will now be able to follow up that question with “And what is his wife called?” So Google is now able to understand concepts and the relationships between them rather than just picking up the words individually. Our interactions with Google are becoming more fluid and less clunky.

“In a nutshell, the Hummingbird update will hopefully return better, more relevant search results for its users.”

rebecca weeksWe asked Rebecca Weeks, SEO Account Director at Manning Gottlieb OMD to share her thoughts:

Have you noticed any changes over the past month?

“Honestly, no. That’s not to say it won’t change, but we have monitored activity closely since the announcement and looked back over the last month to identify any difference and have yet to notice any major change.”

How will it affect existing sites and the future of search?

“This is Google’s next iteration in its quest to move towards semantic search. Whilst the knowledge graph was designed to link people, places and things together, Hummingbird looks to apply a more intelligent understanding to search requests in order to provide better results.

“I think it’s unlikely to affect existing sites, if they haven’t already, as Hummingbird has been around for the last month.  Future search results will reflect the full semantic meaning of longer tail search terms and should provide more accurate results, providing the answers to more conversational queries such as ‘how’ and ‘why’. This places even greater importance on high-quality content and reflects how much the way in which people search has evolved across multiple devices.

“Perhaps the most exciting part of this update is the acknowledgement of the rise in mobile and voice based searches.”

“This will no doubt significantly benefit brands, which have already developed strategy in these areas and are considered to be experts in their vertical.”

0a9d6b0We also asked Lisa Myers, CEO at Verve Search what she thought.

“I believe Hummingbird is a welcome update to the Google algorithm, it simply puts more thought to sentences and meaning of words combined. In essence it is trying to better gauge the intent of the long tail search by analysing the combination and order of the long tail phrase rather than the individual word. This in theory is good news for any white hat SEO concentrating on a solid content strategy, but rather bad news for the spammers still doing article spamming.

“Search queries have become more and more long tail over the last 5 years, as now people frequently type in 5 or 6 word keyphrases into the search engine, it was imperative for Google to upgrade the algorithm to give better results for these longtail phrases.”

 

scott hagueWe asked Scott Hague, Development Director at Integrated Change for his opinion. He said:

“We are seeing that every change made by Google to its search engine is now geared more towards making search faster, much more insightful and less ‘spammy’. The Hummingbird update is all about user intent and understanding what users want even if they have not explained it properly in a succinct search.”

“The Hummingbird update from Google, launched on the anniversary of its 15th birthday, is a full structural algorithm update to its core engine. Hummingbird will work alongside Panda and Penguin, amongst around another 200 search indicators that rank websites. So far, we haven’t seen the step-change impact of Hummingbird that Panda and Penguin created when launched.”

“Online behaviour and user expectations has changed dramatically over the years. The search engine is becoming a place to gain trustworthy answers. We are now more mobile than ever and with access to voice activated search, we now ask more questions online than we used to and users demand a more precise answer.”

“The user is at the heart of this change from Google which we welcome with open arms. The winners will be sites that work hard to make their landing pages and content relevant and accessible to the user, regularly refreshed and with a great user experience.”

What are your thoughts on the Google Hummingbird update? Let us know in the comments section below!

Written by Victoria Crump-Haill and edited by Becky Canvin

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