Google Hummingbird is one of the largest changes for Google in the last three years. It has been reported as changing about 90% of search results. I am sure many of you still are “getting over” Panda or Penguin, but let’s keep in mind that Hummingbird is completely different as it is not a patch but a completely new formula. The largest difference is the semantic search function built-in. Versions in the past relied more on keywords to display results, but this new version will attempt to understand the searcher’s question or problem, and could provide results that don’t use the words they searched with.
Hummingbird was actually released before Google officially posted information on it. It is speculated of being rolled out with their in-depth articles. Bundle that with semantic search and I can understand why so many people are talking about this update being focussed on long tail keywords. While I think this is an inaccurate way of looking at the update, I can understand the popular view. I think the patch is just enabling better results for complete sentence searches and this is being confused with traditional ways of looking at search phrases to results. However you choose to look at it, Google is getting better at handling more complicated questions, and is asking content providers to write in-depth quality articles.
A key motivator for Google’s change undoubtedly is the rapid growth of spoken web searches. Cell phones drive most of this, but game consoles, desktop computers, and soon TVs will all have the ability to handle verbal web searches. I am sure Google is trying to work out all the bugs before such searches are the norm rather then a cool tech trend.
The main improvements in this update are:
- Semantic Search
- Comparison Search
- Google Intelligence
Google’s goal is to move away from being a search site toward being an answer site. Using semantic search, they want to understand when you are asking a question and just answer it for you without having to go to the website that might have generated the answer. If it is a question that will compare two objects or options, they will do this for you right on the results page.
One of the largest impacts I have seen is Intelligence. With this function they will pull the information out of the page and display it on the right hand side of the results. This is most commonly hours of operations, recent social or blog activity. Essentially they could remove the need of the visitor to actually visit your site. But keep in mind , this is just a concern if your site made it to the first page of results or has the answer for the searcher’s question.
With all of these changes, it’s nice to know Google is staying on-point with their goal of providing good content to its visitors. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. Google wants to only show quality content. They have said they like to see content validated by interactions, so I am sure that social signals are still very important. I want to point out that those are not the only user interactions they can measure—a users’s final result click is still the most important signal. After all, the result that actually answers their question will be the last search result they click on. I don’t see Google sharing this anytime soon too.
If you are still thinking you can try to game the system, I am not sure you will find the success you are looking for. Google is just a quality validator. Don’t get bitter when you get a poor score, lets just stay focused on improving the quality of your site. It will help you rank better, and even convert more customers.
The content of your site, has and always will be the best tool for success.