Hummingbird – Google rewrites its algorithm


Late in Sept. 2013 Google announced they had rewritten their entire algorithm and launched the change approximately 30 days prior. Unlike the prior Panda and Penguin updates, this was not a simple (or complex) algorithm update, it was a much larger full rewrite of the entire algorithm. After 15 years of providing search results, Hummingbird is apparently the biggest thing they have done to the algorithm in twelve.

Seeing as how the change was implemented over a month ago, if your rankings were going to be changed by it, you would have already felt the effects. That is not to say do not worry, as this algorithm change sets the ground work for the immediate future of Google search. This future is aiming at a more semantic and knowledge based search. Compared with the previous keyword focused search of the earlier algorithms Google has used.

Google announced the algorithm update at a press event on Thursday along with some other interface and Knowledge Graph tweaks. After that ended we learned that Hummingbird was described as the biggest Google algorithm change since Caffeine, and that it is designed to let Google quickly parse entire questions and complex queries and return relevant answers, as opposed to looking at queries on a keyword-by-keyword basis.

It appears that Google is trying to implement what id does with its own Knowledge Graph with the rest of the web. The web that is made up of millions of individual websites. Hummingbird is intended to Google understand your web pages, instead of just reading and indexing them. Google’s Knowledge Graph displays results in context of queries to the search engine and interprets the results.

Industry reporter Danny Sullivan spoke with Google’s Amit Singhal and Ben Gomes. Danny said, “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.” He goes on to state, “The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words…Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts, which may bring back better results.”

It appears that this is really just an extension of Google’s ongoing strategy to move away from dependency on keywords and links, which does have implications for SEO. While webmasters may not have to worry about a major changes in immediate rankings like with previous updates of Panda or Penguin, this could be more of an ongoing battle for those coveted page 1 rankings.

It seems that keywords are becoming less and less important to search engine ranking success as Google gets smarter at figuring out what things mean. Fortunately, Hummingbird presumably still consists of the over 200 different signals that webmasters have been continuing to study and learn to gain a competitive edge.

So, is SEO dead?

Not by a long shot. Not until Google stops serving web pages in their query results.

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Published On: Oct 1, 2013