What is Google’s New “Hummingbird” Algorithm?

While Google has always been known to change the algorithm it uses to index web content so as to deliver relevant search results to users (a reported 500-600 times each year), this year has brought some major changes that are chaos in online marketing.  One of the most recent changes is the Google Hummingbird update – an algorithm named because of its precision and speed over previous algorithms.

The reason why Hummingbird is causing such buzz in the online marketing world is because it has completely changed what we know about search engine marketing.  Older algorithms such as Google Panda and Google Penguin made revisions to old algorithms; however, think of Hummingbird as replacement for the whole algorithm.

Hummingbird places more emphasis on “conversational searches” – in other words, it focuses more on the meaning behind the words users are entering into the search bar.  Google has said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to every word used in the query, thus ensuring that users are shown more relevant results.

So why is this causing many online marketers to shake in their proverbial shoes?

How Hummingbird Upended The Online Marketing World

In an effort to make search results more relevant to a user, Google’s emphasis on contextual and semantic meaning has upended traditional SEO marketing, which typically focuses on keywords.  Much of traditional SEO marketing involves researching and incorporating low-competition high-value keywords into website content (including meta tags), thus ensuring that websites rank higher based on what a user enters as a search query.

For example, if a user entered the question, “Where can I buy an Android phone near my house,” older Google algorithms might have emphasized, “buy an Android phone” as the main keyword.  The user may have been shown pages for online companies and major retailers selling the product, which may or may not have been relevant to what the user wanted.

By placing more emphasis on semantic searches, however, Google Hummingbird considers the entire query when creating search results.  This means that traditional marketers who may have been aggressive in optimizing for specific keywords might find their websites docked by the new algorithm.

However, this isn’t the only change that’s perplexing online marketers.  This move was combined with Google’s decision to make search term data unavailable to the public.  There are two reasons why Google might have done this:

  1. Google may be doing this as an effort to thwart the NSA’s efforts to collect search queries and IP addresses.  This is a more cynical outlook on the Hummingbird algorithm, but there are many marketers who may argue that this is secret reasoning behind the encryption of search queries.
  1.  Google is attempting to get more marketers to use Google Adwords, which is the only method marketers can use to find data on search queries.  This means SEO marketing just got a little more expensive.

As you can see, the recent changes made by Google makes it more important than ever to use an experienced online marketer who can help your business adapt and thrive within this new world.