The last few weeks, the SERPs have been chaotic. You may have noticed this yourself: Small drops in Page Authority and Domain Authority or big leaps up the SERPs for some previously poorly ranking content.
The reason: Google has secretly rolled out a new algorithm, the biggest update since 2001.
Unlike Panda and Penguin, Google’s Hummingbird is not merely a major algorithm update or refresh, it is, in fact, a new ranking algorithm altogether. Google remained unusually quiet about the new algorithm until September 26, 2013 when it was confirmed.
Google’s Hummingbird aims to deliver precise and fast results. At this point, specifics are vague but Google has confirmed that the new algorithm focuses on semantic search rather than keyword search based on more intelligent search requests. Put quite simply, Google is getting smarter.
About Google’s Hummingbird
Google is developing semantic search and the announcement of the Hummingbird algorithm update only goes on to indicate the speed at which Google is rolling out user-intent search at a global level. It’s time to sit up and take notice.
Basically Google’s Hummingbird takes semantic search and adds 3 new dimensions to it.
Semantic search is about more intelligent and naturalistic search requests. The Hummingbird update aims to render Google search capable of processing complex search queries. For example, successive search queries about a specific topic are now analyzed and linked.
The adjustment of Google’s search algorithm to account for more complex search queries means that Hummingbird can now turn Google into a comparison engine. For example, let’s say you were to compare the Empire State Building to Sears. Before Google’s Hummingbird, you would have had to search each building and then manually compare them. Google’s Hummingbird now does the legwork for you bringing up a comparison chart for the two buildings if you type in “Empire State Building vs. Sears” in Google’s search bar.
Complex search queries, once they are intelligently processed and understood provide important data to Google search to widen the search results. This broadens search for a more fulfilling user experience.
The take-away: Google search is getting smarter. Hummingbird will affect 90% of searches worldwide. Google is actively developing semantic search and businesses currently relying on simple keyword strategies will suffer in the near future. In addition to that, Google has now stopped reporting keywords in Google Analytics making it more of a challenge to create a comprehensive SEO strategy without primary keywords.
The Future of Content Marketing and SEO
With Hummingbird, Google is clearly articulating the direction of travel for marketers.
1. You Need to Cater for Mobile Users
As smartphone penetration and usage grows, an increasing number of people are using mobile for search. For some types of searches such as restaurants, the search figures on mobile are much higher. Google is clearly focused on improving mobile search. You need to understand the importance of mobile search now and adjust your future SEO and content marketing accordingly.
2. Voice Search
Apple developed Siri because clearly they understand that the future of search on mobiles would be voice. Google is of the same opinion. People want more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces including voice search. Speech input is currently the primary interface on Google Glass.
3. More Complex Queries
Search queries using voice use a more natural language than text searches. Google’s Hummingbird is therefore designed to deliver better results for longer and more complex queries. Google also acknowledges that people are usually not searching for a keyword but rather an answer to a question.
4. Semantic Search
Semantic search is all about providing more accurate search results. This is based on both understanding intent and refining results based on context. Google’s Hummingbird aims to understand search queries as a whole and not the keywords in them. This approach will benefit long tail content rather than keywords.
5. Content Remains Key
Google’s Hummingbird aims to provide more accurate answers to queries. As a marketer, it follows that you need to understand what questions your customers have and develop solutions across your platforms. You need to address questions users of your content may have. You need to develop content that resonates with your target audience.
6. Google+ is the Future
Although Google is constantly arguing that +1s do not influence search results, clearly these social signals are increasingly helping Google render more accurate results. As a marketer, if you don’t have a Google+ profile yet, it’s time to get one.