We’ve been talking a lot about SEO lately, but if you work in search, you already know that last week was pretty eventful, and it warranted another SEO-themed post. It was Google’s 15th anniversary, and the search giant made a few major announcements. On Thursday, a press conference was held in the Menlo Park, California garage where Google was founded.
Among the items discussed was a new search algorithm called Hummingbird, a name that Google says reflects its speed and precision.
What Is Google Hummingbird?
The largest update to Google’s algorithm since 2009’s Caffeine, which focused on better crawling and indexing, Hummingbird affects around 90% of searches worldwide and has been in place for at least a month. While Google has been quiet about exactly how the algorithm works, it has said that its core function is to allow Google to understand full questions rather than phrases and to return accurate answers to those questions. This means that the search engine can better understand concepts and how those concepts relate to each other.
It also allows Google to return better results for what it calls “conversational search,” or spoken searches that inherently have a more natural feel and construction. With Hummingbird, Google has spread its understanding of concepts to the web at large, as opposed to just its Knowledge Graph results, where this technology had primarily been used before.
I see this update as proof that all the talk about semantic search and long-tail queries that has taken place over the last few months was warranted. Google’s endgame has always been understanding what the user wants and listing the sites that have it, and Hummingbird brings them even closer to achieving this goal.
So, what does this mean for SEO?
Hummingbird and SEO
According to the articles I’ve read, search engine optimizers don’t need to do anything different to accommodate for Hummingbird. This isn’t like Panda or Penguin, which sent SEOs into a tizzy with their massive penalties resulting in lost rankings. The way to survive Hummingbird is to do what Google has been telling us to do all along—provide original, informative content that gives users what they’re looking for. If you’re a good SEO, you should already be doing this.
The one challenge I foresee for folks working in the SEO industry is that they will need to develop a deep understanding of their audience, if they don’t have one already. Content should answer a user’s question, and in order to produce content that delivers, marketers need to anticipate what that question will be.
Dive into your analytics, conduct a survey, or do whatever you have to in order to understand the people you’re writing content for.
I see Hummingbird as further evidence of the fusion of SEO and content marketing, two disciplines that have become increasingly intertwined over the last few years. In its quest to anticipate what its users are looking for, Google is continually reiterating the importance of quality content and rewarding the sites that provide it. If you’re not focusing on content production already, it’s time to start!