About a month ago Google announced that they have changed their search algorithm. The new Google search algorithm has been named Hummingbird. Soon after the announcement of the switch was made a flurry of articles and blog posts were published. Some of those posts contained some wild accusations, and other posts had some pretty logical and pragmatic advice. Now that the time has passed and the dust has settled I’ll share some of my thoughts and answer some questions on this pretty big change in the search engine world.
What is a Search Algorithm?
The search algorithm (or algo, if you want to sound hip) is the series of questions a search engine asks every time you make a search. This video is kind of dated, but it does a pretty good job of explaining how search works. If you’ve never seen the video it’s worth the 3 minutes to watch it.
So Google Changed the Algorithm What does that Mean?
The best explanation I’ve heard to answer this question came from Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land (he wrote up a great QA about Hummingbird). His explanation went something like this, imagine that you have an old car, like a Chevy from the 60’s. One day you decide to swap out the engine for an engine that has more modern features. When you’re done swapping out the engine you still have the same car but the performance is enhanced. Google has basically changed their algorithm to enhance their performance.
What Does Google Hummingbird Enhance?
In my opinion the Google Hummingbird change signals three pretty clear objectives for Google.
- Google wants to communicate conversationally.
- Google wants to deliver a seamless experience across all devices.
- Google wants to anticipate your needs and answer your questions before you have them (they want to be your assistant).
Let’s break these down one by one.
- Google wants to communicate conversationally– When search engines started the only way we could interact with a search engine was by keyboard. At that time the search engines operated by looking for keywords and that was pretty much what you would enter into the search. For example if you think about the video above Matt Cutts wants to know how fast a cheetah can run. Instead of searching for, “how fast does a cheetah run?” he searches for, “cheetah running speed.” So in the early days of search we stripped out unnecessary words from our search queries to make it easier for the user to search. Why would Google want to change this? Because today more searchers are using their mobile devices and the big difference is that you can actually speak to your mobile device. That brings us to the next point.
- Google wants to deliver a seamless experience across all devices– As we have already discussed users are searching more frequently from a mobile device. As a result Google has made some strategic changes make sure that users can have a seamless experience whenever they access the web. For example the Google web browser Google Chrome now works on mobile devices. This means where ever you surf the web on any device if you are logged into Google Chrome Google can present personalized search results to you. You can also access your bookmarks, and browsing history seamlessly across all devices. Google is also working hard to enhance the Google Now app. Which brings us to our final point.
- Google wants to be your assistant- Google Now is much more than a search app. Google now starts to get to know you and learns about your activity. When I wake up every morning Google Now tells me how many minutes it will take me to drive to the gym. Google Now also has access to my calendar, contacts, location… almost anything I tell my phone. Because of that Google Now reminds me of deadlines, birthdays, places I have visited, and things I have searched for. Ultimately Google wants the Google Now app to act like the Star Trek Computer. They want you to be able to say, “OK Google” and have Google assist you with any task you can think of. I know I’ve shared this video before but it is the ultimate example of what Google wants Google Now to be.
Hummingbird and SEO
I’ll work on a few other posts that will cover how you should approach Google Hummingbird from an SEO perspective. However I believe that If you are creating quality content, building authority, and focused on providing a great mobile experience you should not have a lot to worry about. In some future posts I’ll write about how you can continue to build on those foundations.
As always I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to leave comments below. Are you excited for the future of search, or does having a company know that much about you sound a little spooky? I’d love to know what you think.