What is Hummingbird and How Does it Affect SEO?

Google Hummingbird

Did you see how the title of this post is in the form of a question? "Conversational Search" is the basis of Google's new algorithm and core update named Hummingbird.

Coinciding nicely with their fifteenth anniversary, Google has us asking, "what is this new search update all about?"

But unlike the Panda and Penguin updates causing lots of buzz and unfortunately dropped rankings for some, Hummingbird represents a significant, and fundamental shift, in the core structure of Google's operating protocols. Whew, that was a mouthful!

With Hummingbird, Google continues to respond to the ever-increasing sophistication of its online users, and the new algorithm is designed to make the Google experience more interactive for its users.

Hummingbird is one more indication that Google, and other search engines, are going to continue to become "smarter" and more intuitive. Let's dive into some specifics.

Hummingbird – Speed and Precision

Over the last month, Google quietly rolled out Hummingbird with little or no fanfare. That should not be taken as an indication that Google sees Hummingbird as a minor change to their search engine algorithm. Just the opposite.

With Hummingbird, Google hopes to significantly alter the way users interact with their search engine. All search engines seek to provide relevant search results quickly and efficiently. Google is working toward a new level of speed and precision in its search results.

What Makes Hummingbird So Different?

Google, like all search engines, is constantly striving to make search results more relevant. As online users become more sophisticated, so do their search queries.

People are now asking questions of their search engines, and are not simply typing in a few keywords and phrases. Hummingbird can interpret these questions with more intelligent search results.

The rise of mobile devices has led to a conversational approach to online searches.

Hummingbird is designed to understand the nuances of a conversational query and to parse the meaning inherent in the content, especially with the concept of voice search.

For example, someone might be searching for “the nearest pizza joint to Wayne University”. A traditional search engine would focus on the keywords, looking for a page that contains the words “pizza”, “joint”, or “Wayne University”.

Consequently, the search results could be all over the map. But Hummingbird is designed to understand the nature of the query, and to recognize it as a sentence with a definite meaning - “Where is the closest pizza restaurant to Wayne University?”.

By understanding the meaning inherent in the question, Hummingbird can go beyond simple keyword matches and produce much more relevant results. In essence, Hummingbird directly answers the user's question.

What Does Hummingbird Mean for SEO?

Does Hummingbird mean the end for SEO? Definitely not. While any change to Google's search engine protocols is routinely answered with a cry of frustration from SEOs and webmasters, Hummingbird shows no signs of significantly changing the search engine optimization landscape. If you are following best SEO practices, there should be little or no adverse effects on your sites.

In my opinion, this search update gives us SEOs some advantages. How do you ask? Simple.

The title of this post was purposely written in the form of a question. Using this concept and the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why, and of course how) will get your content one step close to rising to the top of the search.

However, Hummingbird will also place a renewed emphasis on authoritative quality content. If your SEO strategy is too heavily weighted towards keyword deployment, at the expense of creating authoritative content and quality links, your sites will continue to lose traction and rankings.

Will Hummingbird Affect My Traffic?

Google has stressed that Hummingbird only comes into play on a query-by-query basis, and was only designed to address the needs of complex and highly nuanced searches.

The new algorithm was not designed to create major shifts in traffic or to totally eliminate traditional search protocols. If your site hasn't experienced a drop in traffic over the last month, it is unlikely that Hummingbird will have any adverse effects on your traffic in the future.

If you have seen a drop in traffic, it is more likely due to Google's regular updates than it is to the introduction of Hummingbird. Write your content the way you speak, and Google will reward you with increased traffic.

Google continues to respond to the ongoing evolution of the internet. Hummingbird is poised to make online searches much more responsive to the individual user, and its ability to understand the contextual meaning of online queries makes it a significant leap into the future for both search engines and their users.

Hummingbird was a significant core Google update, and it forever changed the landscape of search results.