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Google Hummingbird – What We Know and What It Means

On Thursday September 26th, Google announced what is believed to be the biggest change to how Google handles search since the 2009 “caffeine” update. This means the change is bigger than Panda and bigger than Penguin, which were both known as game-changers in the world of SEO. This also comes on the back of major changes to Google Analytics in which Google started hiding nearly all keyword data.

What We Know About Hummingbird As of Now

The Google Hummingbird Update is said to affect about 90% of searches, so there is a good chance that this will affect you and your business. Here are some of the facts we know:

  • This is a replacement of the old algorithm. This is not simply an update to the old formula like Penguin or Panda. This is an entirely new formula, though it uses elements from the old.
  • This has been in effect for about a month as of the announcement. Google had apparently rolled out this change unannounced and is now releasing more information.
  • There is a major focus of meaning behind the words. Instead of looking at certain words in a search query and trying to find relevance, Google will be looking at all of the words and seeking to determine the meaning and intent behind your search and provide a more relevant answer. This has been done before in part, but now on a much higher level.
  • Long search terms will likely be highly affected. Google’s updates are focusing on “conversational searches,” comparison searches, and other similar searches for which it can provide direct information. It will also be able to understand those searches better in order to give what it believes to be better results. So, for example, a search term like “World War 2” may not be greatly impacted, but “Impact of Modern Technology on World War 2” may yield results with much higher relevancy and nuance.
  • We also believe there will be more Google+ integration. This hasn’t been stated outright, but it looks like Google will be using more data from past searches, info from Google+ and info from Google Now to provide more relevant info, specifically in voice searches, which will inevitably become more popular. For example, if you’re looking for a dentist near your home, Google may recognize your home from previous Google usage and act accordingly.

We will undoubtedly learn more about the Hummingbird algorithm change as time progresses, and will provide updates here as we learn more.

Google’s Changes Mean You May Need Help

One of the major things we believe this algorithm highlights is the need for dedicated search professionals working on your website. For some companies, this may mean a full time dedicated staff person, and for others, working with an agency or individual who is keeping up on the updates and adjusting accordingly. The changes Google makes come quickly and have been significant over the past two years (even in the past two weeks there were significant changes to both the algorithm and Google Analytics). The landscape is incredibly different now than it was back then, and without help your business can suffer.

If you’re looking for help, get in touch. We’ll help assess your site, get you started, and keep you going.