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Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm
What It Means For Your Business.

Dec. 20, 2013


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Marketers are talking about it online. Google does it again. It dropped the old search engine algorithm, which includes Panda and Penguin, and switched to a new one called “Hummingbird.”

The name Hummingbird could not be more apt. It came from a nectar-feeding bird that’s both “precise and fast.” And it promises big changes. Google, for one, wants to eliminate many of the search frustrations users have especially irrelevant and keyword-focused content.

There’s nothing really new or different marketers and publishers should worry about, especially those who have stuck to the “Golden Rules” from the start: relevant, original and high-quality content. However, many companies seem to be an exception.

The Advent of Conversational Search

Danny Sullivan, in writing for Search Engine Land, briefly discussed how Hummingbird improved search engine results.

When searchers type in “pay Nationwide insurance bill” search engine results now return the specific bill payment page on Nationwide.com. Before Hummingbird, it simple returned Nationwide’s home page.

See the difference? Google wants to match specific answers to specific questions. Searchers, after all, are not merely typing in a string of keywords. They’re looking for a particular content.

The fact that Hummingbird supports this new type of activity means that your business website should focus on delivering highly targeted and engaging content. It’s not enough to upload a list of products and services online. Customers expect your business to speak in the same language they’re using.

Accommodate All Computing Platforms

More and more people are using tools like Siri and Google’s very own voice search functionality to perform searches. This makes sense since typing in keywords is more difficult on smartphones and tablets than on bigger screens. Hummingbird, in fact, was made to support conversational voice searchers.

What’s more, Hummingbird knows that it’s going to need your device’s location service when you ask to find a “groceries near me” or a “nearest grocery store in the neighborhood.” You don’t even have to key in a string of keywords. Simply type in “groceries” and the algorithm will return location-based searchers. It’s that smart.

This new functionality highlights the role of “context.” The algorithm knows (and needs to know) where the searcher is based and what he or she is likely looking for. It’s a great leap ahead of the old search algorithm where keywords (not contexts) rule.

Search marketers in the all industries should be able to understand both content and context. Asking questions about users is extremely important here. What exactly are they looking for? Where are they shopping?

No one outside Google knows everything about Hummingbird. So if there’s one thing you should be doing now, it’s this: test, experiment, gather results. Remember, ranking high on the search engine is an ongoing learning process, not a one-time event.

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