What you should know about Google Hummingbird

‘Hummingbird’ is codename for the Google search platform that was implemented in September 2013. Its name comes from being ‘precise and fast’, and it was designed to better focus on the meaning behind words in a search.

Unlike the Panda and Penguin updates, Hummingbird was not an algorithm change, but a complete refurbishment of the search engine. Many SEOs used the metaphor of a new engine in an old car to explain Hummingbird – for example, algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin were like the equivalent of putting a new part, like a filter or a fuel pump, in to an old engine. Hummingbird on the other hand was like switching the old engine out for a completely new one. The new engine still makes use of the older parts (Panda and Penguin), but a good proportion of the engine is completely original.
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What you should know about Google Hummingbird

Google makes over 600 changes like this one to its core algorithm each year in an effort to provide searchers with the highest quality and most relevant search results. The purpose of Google Hummingbird was to better understand the user’s search query so that, for example, if a user searched for ‘the best place to eat Chicago deep dish pizza’, it would be able to discern that by ‘place’, the user would most likely be interested in results that show ‘restaurants’. This is what Hummingbird allows Google to do, and it’s argued it was needed in order for Google’s voice search to be more effective since it mainly deals with long tail phrases.

In 2015, Google then introduced RankBrain; an artificial intelligence modification that works in conjunction with Hummingbird and uses mathematical processes to gradually learn more about how and why people search. RankBrain works to analyse ambiguous, unrefined or otherwise difficult to interpret search queries, and can update itself and its responses over time rather than being pre-programmed to respond to certain situations in a specific, pre-determined way.

I know what you’re thinking – how is this going to affect my SEO strategy, and what will I be penalised for this time? The answer is, if you’re taking the white hat approach to SEO, you’ll barely notice any difference. The implications of Hummingbird and RankBrain on your SEO strategy are minimal because these processes aim to understand more about the searcher rather than the webmaster. However, since Hummingbird is more intelligent than the previous algorithm, website owners deploying black hat tactics such as keyword stuffing and poor quality guest blogging will be recognised much faster and penalised accordingly.

It appears that Google is simply trying to encourage webmasters to publish content that is the best of its kind with these updates; it wants to deliver answers to the people who are searching. So, if you can produce great quality content that answers your potential customers’ questions, you’re on the right track. But if like many website owners you’re unsure about what constitutes white/black hat, you can consult an SEO firm such as Cheltenham web design agency MA Design, who can advise you on the best practices of SEO, or even do the hard work for you.