In the months since Google launched its latest algorithm update, called Hummingbird, the search world has had a chance to reflect on the new standards and expectations for how to use search. Algorithm changes always shake up the SEO and content strategy worlds, and this was a big one.
Why was it big? The Hummingbird update was a complete overhaul of the algorithm – the first like it since their “Caffeine” update way back in 2010. More recent updates, like Panda and Penguin, focused on smaller changes to the existing system rather than an overhaul of the entire recipe.
The search algorithm is the “secret recipe” system through which search results are generated when you type “How to cook bacon” into the box on Google.com. This process has evolved over time to help users find the best sources and most relevant information for what they’re trying to find.
Google’s goal is to ensure that the highest quality results are served up, leading searchers to the exact answer to their question. It also means that bad links – those with irrelevant information or that provide an unpleasant user experience – are pushed down the ranks.
Websites are given rankings to determine the quality of the information and relevance to the searched-for topic.
The new Hummingbird evolution is considered a pretty big deal. With this update, even greater pressure is being put on websites to create quality, unique content.
Keyword stuffing (jamming as many technical search terms into your text as possible) has long been condemned as bad practice, but Google’s getting even stricter – and smarter! With Hummingbird, search engines are becoming more natural, taking into account semantics and intent more than just keywords.
Hummingbird is also gearing up search for improved mobile use. In our world of smartphones and tablets, virtual keyboards can be tricky to use, leading people to lean on voice search. The new algorithm is a first step towards speech pattern recognition, processing conversational searches and returning accurate results.
The emphasis is moving towards understanding the way humans speak and think, and most importantly, the way they use language to search.
The big takeaway? If you’ve been leaning on keyword-heavy content as your SEO strategy, you’d better get to work. Your content strategy and SEO tactics should strive to provide good information and unique content that will answer the questions searchers – your potential audience – are looking for. When it comes to being more human, Hummingbird is only the beginning.
At the end of the day, Google’s goal is to make the search engine as human-friendly as possible for their customer, the searcher. For users, Hummingbird means being able to type in a phrase or question in plain, colloquial language and getting better results than ever. For marketers, it means rethinking your content and SEO strategies to be more human and more tailored to real readers.