What is Google Hummingbird?
Hummingbird refers to Google’s newest search algorithm, which denotes its preciseness and speed – two purposes for which it was developed. In layman’s term, an algorithm refers to a method used by Google to sift through billions of web pages to give users effective search results. Google often uses the names of animals to refer to algorithmic updates that it factors in to improve search results for its users. Penguin and Panda, two previous updates focused more on fighting web spam and reducing the rank of low quality sites. Hummingbird focused more on search result synonyms being interchangeable with one another thereby improving the search engine’s neuro-linguistic capacity.
During its launch in late-2013, Google cited Hummingbird as the most radical and biggest improvement to its search algorithm since the launch of its Caffeine algorithm three years earlier. The announcement of the change in 2013 came after month-long trials on the algorithm to perfect it before the public became aware of its existence.
Features of Google Hummingbird
Google’s search engine algorithm has undergone major changes since the introduction of the Caffeine update through Panda and Penguin updates. However, what makes Hummingbird stand out from the other two changes is that it has undergone wholesale renovations unlike the latter two, which were patchworks on the old algorithm.
1. Conversational search
One of the wholesale changes instituted in Hummingbird is the introduction of a conversational search feature, which targets smartphone users who like to use the voice feature when using Search Engines.
Thanks to Hummingbird, Google search system adopts a human mentality in responding to search query by deeply analysing the whole search statement rather than focusing on the keywords alone.
For example, someone looking for the nearest grocery store in their area can get search results indicating every store in their neighbourhood so long as they conduct the search using their local Google domain.
This is unlike before when search results solely focused on keywords, which would mean that the search results could contain grocery stores located far away from your residential area.
Even better is the fact that Google now has the ability to analyse a search query’s context and come up with the appropriate results. A case in point is when you replace someone’s name with a pronoun to which the search engine will understand that the pronoun refers to the name. As a result, Google responds with the appropriate answer related to the use of the pronoun. In contrast to other search engines, this feature of Hummingbird allows you to get full sentence responses to your search queries through a computerized voice while providing you with an information card outlining the search results.
The knowledge graph feature simplifies the search query process by providing you with graphical results to your inquiries. This saves you time and effort in finding the information you require. If you are searching for a famous person, for example, Google will provide you with the picture of this person along with his date of birth, date of death, famous works as well as important milestones in his life. A constant problem facing users of search engines was that search engines would provide them with a lot of irrelevant results because of the fact that some terms have multiple meanings. This problem is solved by the Knowledge Graph feature, which provides users with suggestions of whole statements that have been patterned in accordance with the popular statements and queries used by other visitors with regards to the specific search term. For example, a search of the term ‘rhino’ will come with search results showing the various images related to the term complete with additional details on each of them.
Google’s Knowledge Graph further enhances the search query experience by providing comparisons between two search terms. This is evident when you key in the term ‘Coke vs. Pepsi’ from which the search results will be in the form of a double-column table depicting pictures of both products as well as details about both, such as, total carbohydrate content and calorie count among others.
Another feature of this algorithm is its mind reader feature that seeks to understand what is on the users’ minds even before they think about it. This is based on semantics analysis, which focuses on improving search engine optimisation (SEO) via semantic search optimisation. Such efforts are based on the fact that modern SEO has developed beyond keywords and nowadays consider the meaning of words as much as keywords. In addition to semantic analysis, the success of this feature also requires Google to compile information on the users’ personal context, such as, location as well as the local domain.
Impact of Google Hummingbird on SEO
Viability of keywords
One of the major queries elicited by the introduction of Hummingbird is its impact on use of keywords. Contrary to perceptions that it nullifies the importance of keywords, the algorithm enhances the use of keywords as they form a core part of the semantic analysis of content. Search Engine Land advises that content creators should strive to develop high-quality, relevant and original content as has always been the case. What they need to avoid is utilizing the same phrases repeatedly and instead develop straightforward definitions of what their web pages are about in their page titles.
The prominence of semantics
A notable change in the SEO industry brought about by Hummingbird is the increased relevance of semantics in search engines. Whereas content still remains integral to improving rankings, websites must now be cognizant of the needs of their specific target audience to come up with information that captures these precise wants or needs. By understanding the needs of users by comprehending the semantic element of their search terms, content creators can develop in-depth content that does not merely scratch the surface of a need but provides detailed information tailored to that need.
Impact on long tail search results
Instead of proving a death knell for long tail search results, Hummingbird will allow Google to infer these types of search results rather than include them in the query itself. Still, they may be included in your search query or shortened to a simplified head term. In a nutshell, these long tail search results will be based on human needs and wants; and not keyword strings as has been customary.
Impact on users’ needs and wants on search engines
The entire concept of this algorithm is that it focuses on providing precise and immediate results to users’ search queries by better understanding their needs and wants. On the users’ part, they will need to type exactly what they want and avoid using keyword queries that are short and do not provide comprehensive results. The impact on content creators is that they need to build web pages that cater to the various needs or intentions of their potential clients. To understand these needs, you ought to map them out, which will guide you in developing the language, architecture or content to be used for your webpages.
Relevance of PageRank
Hummingbird’s introduction has also led to suggestions that this could be the end of the PageRank algorithm. Far from it; in fact, PageRank constitutes one of the 200 core ingredients of Hummingbird, which enables it analyse the importance of certain links to a webpage. This will spare web pages from the complications associated with ranking since a website with a good link increases its authority, credibility and reliability in the eyes of their target audience.
In ascertaining the quality of the link, Google will assess other features, such as, the number of words used on the page as well as the quality of the words used. Hummingbird helps content creators avoid inbound links from irrelevant contexts, which prove detrimental to the webpage’s ranking on search engines.
Some common myths about Hummingbird
The release of Hummingbird has been met with various misconceptions, which have reflected themselves in the form of myths. One of the most common is that it is related to 100% (Not Provided) because both were launched at around the same period. However, this is mere coincidence as both perform different functions from each other. Hummingbird aims to improve search experiences by enhancing improved information retrieval as well as query expansion. On the other hand, 100% (Not Provided) deals with encryption of keyword data for both logged out and logged in users. This means that web creators cannot use Google to see which keywords are driving traffic to their websites.
Another common misconception about this new algorithm is that it draws its entire strength from the Knowledge Base, which makes it rather simplistic. Truth is, Hummingbird depends on more than one element – 200 elements to be precise. The Knowledge Base helps it to handle queries that require personalization to yield the right search results sought by a specific user.
Although the use of structured data by content creators can help harness the benefits of Hummingbird, people should be wary not to confuse this to mean that the algorithm depends entirely on structured data to yield positive results. A popular myth in this regard has been that using Schema.org would be a brilliant idea. What is important is for web masters or content creators to provide Google with simple context for the topics that guide the creation of a page, in which structured data is beneficial. Even though, make sure that the external links and mentions are valid to enhance the authoritativeness of the page.
Fears that the content-driven business or SEO is in jeopardy are unfounded. Hummingbird represents the beginning of an improvement in search optimization. Smart web managers or content creators should be able to harness it benefits and thrive so long as they maintain their focus on producing quality, relevant and original content that is search engine-friendly.