By Interactive Strategies
Dec 04, 2013

What You Need to Know About Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

Our Google overlords have done it again. They’ve changed the algorithm that indexes sites and delivers search results.

Its name – Hummingbird. And it’s the biggest change to Google’s search engine algorithm since Caffeine back in 2010. A lot has changed since then. Global mobile traffic has increased significantly, the rise in fiber-optic Internet has expanded our data consumption, and Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms penalized sites with poor-quality content that used black-hat SEO tactics to improve search-engine rankings.

Now that Hummingbird has emerged, it’s essential for digital marketers to anticipate what users will search for and provide answers in high-quality content.

1. Understand the conversation

With the advent of Hummingbird, “conversational search” has become the focus. The key to Hummingbird is its ability to examine all words in a search query and furnish results that the search engine thinks you want.

If you search for deli sandwiches in Baltimore, previous Google algorithms would give results that included deli sandwiches and Baltimore in page content. However, some pages wouldn’t be related to what you’re searching for and might give you recipes instead of restaurants.

Hummingbird changes all that with Knowledge Graph. When you enter deli sandwiches in Baltimore, Hummingbird knows you want to find restaurants in the Baltimore area that are recommended for deli sandwiches.

What does this mean for you? Quality writing and relevant content will rise to the top of search rankings. With Hummingbird and voice-search capability, Google tries to bring users the best results. Clear and concise copywriting can help Google understand if your site answers the question the searcher asks.

2. Content is still king

In order to adapt to older Google algorithms, it was common for sites to create unnecessary webpages of content and do things to manipulate the search eangine just to rank – a practice known as black-hat SEO. Google caught onto marketers’ attempts to manipulate site rankings through Panda and Penguin, and punished sites that spam users and offer poor-quality content.

Which leads us to the all-important topic of good content. Google has always wanted sites to produce original, high-quality content. Now with Hummingbird, Google’s search capabilities are more finely tuned to allow pages with good content to rank higher on search results, and websites with spam content to fall off.

What does this mean for you? Keywords aren’t going away. They still help Google determine if your website will help the user gain the information he/she seeks. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on keywords for Google to recognize your site.

With Hummingbird’s intelligence, Google tries to anticipate the user’s needs. For your site to rank high in the search results, your website needs to clearly state your authority on what you offer the user.

3. Social sharing

Part of being an authority in your field of service is to have your online content shared. Social shares and links to your site from other authoritative websites are indicators to Google that your content is of substance.

Social sharing and link building go hand in hand with providing content that your users are looking and searching for.

What does this mean for you? If you have content that meets your audience's needs, share it! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest - and of course Google+ - are all avenues to have high-quality, informative content noticed and ultimately shared among relevant audiences.

Michelle Smith is a freelance writer with a focus on social media and marketing. She can be found typing away on her laptop in sunny Boca Raton, Florida. Michelle welcomes your feedback via email.

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