Maybe you’ve heard: Google updated its core search algorithm in August with something called Hummingbird. While the animal is small, the change is big. This core algorithm update is going to change the way search marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) are thought about and executed for the foreseeable future. While the technical details are certainly important to grasp, what’s more important is to understand how Google’s Hummingbird will affect search in 2014 and beyond.
It’s Not an Add-On to Panda or Penguin
While Google Panda and Penguin were most certainly updates to the Google search algorithm, they are best to be thought of as addendums to the core algorithm’s capabilities and functionality.
Think of it in terms of water purification: Panda and Penguin are extra filters that websites go through in Google’s algorithm to make the search results more ‘pure’ by removing harmful ‘spam.’
Google’s Hummingbird fundamentally changes the way the algorithm functions, crawls and indexes information from the web and delivers results to searchers.
So What Exactly is Google Hummingbird?
In a nutshell, the Google Hummingbird algorithm allows search to make the natural progression from keywords and the content that provides information on those keywords, to natural (semantic) conversational language. Enter Google Knowledge Graph and entities.
What Google Hummingbird Means for Search
Google wants to and is currently in the beginning phases of creating knowledge graphs and entities with relevant, authoritative knowledge around topics of all kinds. In essence, Google wants to be able to answer complex user questions (natural language) and provide targeted, authoritative and relevant answers.
Hummingbird has allowed Google to move to an entity/node model of search. In this new model, placing targeted keywords in content will be a smaller part of the equation. The precedent that Panda set is carried through to Hummingbird; content must still be useful and informative to consumers, answering these complex questions. The Hummingbird change wants the publishers, brands and companies that provide this information to establish themselves as an entity in the search engines’ knowledge graph.
Search will be moving from a linear model to an entity/node model. Here’s a representation what that looks like:
This doesn’t mean that the content you create on your website is irrelevant or that it shouldn’t be keyword-focused. In fact, the opposite is true. The content you create is more valuable than it has ever been. And the ecosystem you leverage to distribute that content and engage your consumers is no longer independent of that content. Google’s Hummingbird wants to aggregate content from all digital channels (i.e., social media, e-commerce) to form a full picture of your entity/company/brand knowledge and authority.
Rather than rely on a single source, or fragmented social sources, to return results for a string of keywords, the entity/node model affords Google the opportunity to build more thorough answers to questions that consumers and searchers are asking. Google Hummingbird is built to discover the intent of the consumer’s or user’s question(s) and provide incredibly relevant answers, not just results.
Your Digital Ecosystem is More Important Than Ever
The bottom line is that Google is changing the way it serves results. Results are now becoming answers. Searchers and consumers view Google as a real-time answer wizard: just type in what you’re looking for and Google will spit out an answer to your question. Unfortunately, the keyword-first model makes it difficult for Google to create meaningful answers for searchers and consumers. Google is adopting a new model: consumer-first.
In a consumer-first model, Google will be starting to interpret and distinguish consumer intent to understand the semantic (natural language) questions they are asking. Google will pull from their knowledge graph composed of entities to deliver answers.
It makes connected, fluid and unified digital ecosystems more important than they have ever been. Establishing authority and relevance around topics will now involve a combination of the content you create not only on your website, but also the other digital channels where your brand or company publishes content.
Want to learn more about how your company can optimize your channels for Google Hummingbird? Send us an email and we’ll get the conversation started.