The Buzz on Google’s Hummingbird Update

2 Minute Read | Search Engine Optimisation
Pic: mikebaird
Pic: mikebaird

Wait – do hummingbirds buzz, or is that just bees? What does the hummingbird say? And don’t tell me that it hums.

Anyway… what is Hummingbird? So named because it is quick and accurate (and adorable?), Hummingbird is Google’s shiny new search algorithm – the biggest change to its algorithm since 2001. Google has, of course, produced significant updates in the past, such as Panda in 2011 and Penguin in 2012. However, Hummingbird is a complete overhaul of the algorithm.

Hummingbird’s focus is on ranking pages based on a more complex, intelligent understanding of the results, thereby helping users to get the results they’re actually looking for. Importantly, the algorithm caters to the search needs of users in 2013, rather than what their needs were back in 2001 – the year I turned 13, and seemingly an aeon ago in technological terms.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm will facilitate a more conversational search function by depending less on keywords and taking into account contextual linguistics, such as syntax and word order. Do you want to know who invented the toaster strudel, how big Australia is, or whether Benedict Cumberbatch is married (for completely non-stalky purposes, I swear)? Ask Google and it will be able to tell you. This isn’t just great news for those times you need to settle a party bet – it’s also a sign of the future.

Not married! Yes!
Not married! Yes!

Tellingly, when Google announced the new Hummingbird algorithm, it was demonstrated on a smartphone. Users are increasingly opting for a conversational style of search query, thanks to the increase in mobile devices with voice recognition software. Personally, I suspect that Hummingbird has been introduced partly in preparation for Google Glass’ public release.

As for its impact on SEO, there’s no need to stress – the new algorithm should have little impact in that regard, at least where white-hat SEO practices are concerned. In fact, the algorithm was rolled out a month before it was actually announced and I’m pretty sure the sky didn’t fall in.

So, just keep doing what you’re doing – generating interesting, relevant content for your website or clients, continuing to write title tags and meta descriptions, and engaging the public on social media.

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