About a month ago, Google quietly released Hummingbird – a change to the Google search algorithm. Unlike the Panda and Penguin Updates (which only tweaked the existing structure), Hummingbird represents a change to the entire structure of Google’s search engine. The last big change was back in 2010 with the Caffeine release and that was primarily for “a new web indexing system” according to Google’s blog, and was not a variation in the way the search itself performs. Hummingbird IS.
Why Make a Change?
Google says they made the change to help better support the longer sentence structures people are typing and speaking when they are doing searches. More and more people are using voice-to-text to perform search queries (like Google Now).
People are more likely to speak and type in phrases and complete sentences. This is a dramatic change from 10 years ago, when people typed in one or two words to perform a search. The new analytic is particularly important to the advancement of conversational search, which was went live on the Chrome browser in May of this year.
Conversational search not only responds to voice queries, it also threads previous conversations to allow more “human-like” automatic referencing back to a previous query to define the current one more completely. Personally, I have found that using voice query on a smart phone or tablet is more effective than using one on a computer, since the built-in mics on the portable devices are often better at higher quality voice capture.
Mobile Use Pushing Google Changes
According to a report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, over half of all adults now have a smartphone and over 80% of all 25-35-year-olds own one. The saturation increases with educational level completed and household income so that some of these segments have a saturation exceeding 90%!
So, mobile search growth is astounding and voice search is an important component of that growth.
Google’s change to their search is to better incorporate this flavor of search to return better results not just for what the searcher asks, but for what they MEAN when they ask. For instance, “Where is the closest dry cleaner?” assumes the use of geo positioning information to answer the search question — even though the portion defining where the searcher is currently standing isn’t implicitly included in the search string. Google’s own blog discussed the changes made to improve the mobile experience.
How Hummingbird Will Impact Your SEO
Is content still king? Yes! The “content is king” wisdom is fact. So, if you have great content, you don’t need to worry about any changes. If you don’t have great content, now is the time to change that. The algorithm is going to require content to capture results. The failure to include content on all pages, and site designs that toss aside text and in favor of image-only content will suffer.
Check your SEO now. Realize that this has been in place for a month now, and if you are still “basically” where you were — or in a better position, keep doing what you are doing. If you need help punching up your content to take full advantage of the new algorithm, give me a call. I’d be happy to help you pump it up! In the meantime, enjoy playing with the shiny new options Google has rolled out.