It comes as no surprise that Google has released yet another algorithm update. This time it’s named after a more dynamic species, the Hummingbird, and rightfully so, because its aim is to provide you, as the searcher, more dynamic results.
Previous major algorithm updates included Penguin and Panda. Like the animals themselves the reasons for the updates were very black and white: the Penguin update was designed to catch websites that were participating in bad link building practices to boost their Google rankings. The Panda update sifted out content that Google deemed to lack substantial information. This was based on a variety of factors that can be read about here.
The Penguin and Panda updates were changes to the old algorithm, while Hummingbird is a replacement of the entire algorithm; a whole new algorithm but still using parts of the old algorithm like Penguin and Panda. Confused yet? No doubt if you don’t know what an algorithm is. So just in case here is a definition for you.
What is a search algorithm?
When you type in a word or phrase into the search bar online, Google uses a formula to sift through the billions of web pages to give you what it thinks is the best answers to what you’re looking for on the internet.
Why does Google change its algorithm?
Google makes changes and updates to its algorithm with the ultimate goal of providing better search results for you, the searcher, as well as being able to target websites that are using unethical ways of ranking higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
According to Google the latest Hummingbird update, like the bird itself, is designed to be precise and fast and return better search results that focus on user intent instead of individual search terms. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan says it perfectly:
Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”
What does this mean for your internet marketing strategy?
Even thought Hummingbird was just officially announced last week, it’s actually been rolling out for about a month or so and no one has seen any dramatic changes in search rankings so far. This means that as long as you are practicing credible SEO tactics with content at the center of your strategy, you shouldn’t be planning on making any significant changes to your internet marketing strategy. In other words, continue to create relevant, engaging, shareable content and you’ll be fine.
It’s also probably not an accident that around the same time Hummingbird was being rolled out Google announced that it would no longer allow us to see the keywords people are using to get to a specific website. So, if one of your potential customers typed a search term into Google, found your company in the search results, and came to your website from that search term, you now have no way of knowing what that term was. Read more about Google’s decision to hide search term data here.
Why this is a good thing
With Google’s decision to hide keyword data and roll out the Hummingbird update, it’s telling us that SEO should be less about keyword data and focused more on customer engagement. Businesses should position themselves to provide answers to the questions people are asking online by identifying the needs and problems of their customer personas and providing relevant content at the center of their internet marketing strategy.