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The Hummingbird Update and the Future of Search

Google Hummingbird Update
Google Hummingbird Update

It seems like Google updates more frequently than what we can keep up with them. Their latest update, the Hummingbird Update was announced recently even though they had been using it for about a month prior to the announcement. Some could take it personal when they are not “in the know” about which update is being initiated. The latest update to the algorithm is the Hummingbird update and it is one in which the entire algorithm has undergone a complete overhaul. Unlike some of the earlier updates like Penguin or Panda, Hummingbird is a total change to the algorithm. Penguin and Panda each dealt with one aspect of the algorithm, not the entire method. The latest update has refined how search results are gathered and displayed for users and it has sent ripples of discontent across SEO professionals. Knowing how the Hummingbird Update changes the world of search is important to web marketers and SEO specialists everywhere.


The New Semantic Search

Instead of looking at what words are typed into a search query, Google now looks at how the user searches and what their intent is. By entering a rather complex question into the search bar, users will receive more relevant search results than before. One reason is because Google is now looking more closely at the descriptive words that are being used. One way to look at it is that search is now becoming more “conversational.” One reason for this drastic change in search is the number of users who now use the cell phone’s voice command feature to search for answers to complex questions. Before the Hummingbird Update, if a user entered a complex question the search results would be based solely on keywords used in the question but it might not actually offer any sensible answer to the question being asked. Users would have to tailor their questions in ways that would help them find an appropriate answer. This was far less “natural” than today’s search query. Basically, Hummingbird is placing more emphasis on the context of the search and less emphasis on keywords. One of the things most internet users see in Google’s move to make search data “not provided” is a way of placing more emphasis on context and moving away from the importance of keywords.


Content and Relevance

Content and search relevance are largely the focus of Google after all the changes. The intent of the Hummingbird Update was to make search a more natural environment. This would place online content that is naturally worded and more in-depth above other content that is focused just on the use of keywords. Simply put, the idea is to put more value on content that is created to add value to the user rather than just created to rank high in the search engines. For white hat SEO specialists, this appears on the surface to be no different than what they were doing before the update occurred. Google has been preaching “writing for the audience” for a long time now and the changes made to the search algorithm simply reinforce the concept. Those who continue to produce content which is “keyword rich” using former SEO strategies back realize quite a backlash. SEO has not disappeared; it’s just that some of the content strategies are in need of a little tweaking. High quality content that is geared to providing solid information to users will rank higher than content that is simply built around a keyword strand.


The Future of Search

One of the things that many readers of the Google blog may have noticed is that they used mock-ups on mobile devices instead of desktops or laptops when they announced the Hummingbird Update. The internet is being accessed from mobile devices more than ever before and this trend is not likely to diminish anytime soon. Google is very aware of the shift to the mobile user. Google wants users to be able to find reliable information on the internet. Actually, they want users to find precisely what they are looking for whether they are using a mobile device or not. It is worth noting that Google has a sizeable stake in the mobile market too since they have their own Android operating system.


Hummingbird is really the biggest change in Google’s algorithm in a long time, but it should not be a huge surprise to the SEO world. This latest update only reinforces what Google has been preaching for a long time. Content is still king – as long as it is high quality and relevant to the user.

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