Google announces new Algorithm called Hummingbird

Yesterday Google announced that they have launched a brand new Algorithm called Hummingbird which has already been live for around a month. Most changes we see such as Panda and Penguin are “updates” but this is a completely new Algorithm and the biggest change since 2001 according to Google’s Amit Singhal. What’s changed? The changes are focused on understanding user intent and the meaning behind words rather than just matching a keyword to a piece of content: “What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example. Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words. In particular, Google said that 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.” Source: Google has been heading in this direction for years with Knowledge Graph and answering questions directly in the search results:

What impact will this have?

Given that Google is working on understanding exactly what a user is looking for this places even more emphasis on creating great, useful content rather than trying to create a page which appears to be the most relevant result because of keywords, etc. This has been the case for a long time but this update is likely to push this even further as Google is able to understand the complexity of a user’s search phrase in even more detail. By providing good quality informational content you can ensure that your site continues to perform well. The Hummingbird update aims to answer complex questions so we might see user behaviour/search terms change as more people move toward searching for questions rather than just keywords. For example “Which are the best digital marketing agencies in Exeter?” rather than “Digital marketing agency Exeter”.

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