A quick glance at Twitter or your RSS reader will reveal that everyone is all a’flutter about Hummingbird, Google’s latest algorithm update. This release is the biggest one since Caffeine in 2010. How is it different from its predecessor? Amit Singhal reports:
“[Hummingbird] is clearly more focused on ranking sites better for relevance, while Caffeine was more focused on better indexing and crawling of sites.”
First, can you tell us what Google patents are being used by Hummingbird?
I don’t know for certain if I know the patents behind Hummingbird, but my intuition tells me that they are significantly related to better understand the contexts and syntax of queries. I wrote blog posts about two different patents that appear to be related, and I’ve been working on another for a couple of days that seems possibly even more related. My two posts are:
1. How Google May Reform Queries Based on Co-Occurrence in Query Sessions looking at the patent Generalized Edit Distance for Queries
2. Relationships between Search Entities, which looks at the patent Search entity transition matrix and applications of the transition matrix
The third patent is Synonym identification based on co-occurring terms, posted on today: The Google Hummingbird Patent?
Do you think schema and structured data will play a role?
I don’t see a role for schema or structure data at all in this process.
In your opinion, how do you think Hummingbird will impact SEO?
Hummingbird will enable people to create longer, more complex, and more natural language type queries, and receive higher quality results, even if all the words used in the query don’t appear upon the pages being returned.
That last question – how Hummingbird may impact SEO – is one that we were particularly interested in, since it involves a combination of expert opinion and a bit of good old-fashioned guesswork. We wanted to hear what others had to say on the topic as well, and so we pestered a few more people who graciously answered (even after business hours – thanks, folks!)
As a content strategist with an affinity for SEO, I couldn’t be happier Hummingbird arrived. To my mind, the algo change will lessen two of my biggest frustrations.
First, I’d come to hate Google for sentence-baced search since the algo was only picking up a few of the words in the string. For example, a while back I typed “How to fix iMessage problems when switching from Apple to Android?” The answers I got back centered around buying a phone, either an iPhone or a Samsung.
Not much help when you’re just trying to get clarity on how to stop the iPhone from tagging a number to iMessage. With the Humminbird, this should not be a problem, since Google says each word in a query will receive attention.
The second reason I’m happy about Hummingbird is I think it’s going to reward content strategists and content marketers who do their homework. I’ve long railed against content marketers who focus more on the “marketing” component as opposed to being willing to get in the weeds with the strategy.
These folks are able to create lots of poorly guided content, much of which does nothing to sate the appetite of those they are marketing to. I refer to these folks as creating messages meant for no one in particular.
There is no attention given to personas or linguistic cues, and context is ignored. The pre-Hummingbird algorithm still rewarded these folks if they picked the right keywords.
Now, however, those who nail strategy when content-planning will be richly rewarded. Since they’ve likely parsed out subtle cues in the language, and because they have a great idea of who they are marketing to, the sentences and phrases they type into Google should yield a depth of context-rich information that can further guide the process. I’m going to enjoy Hummingbird, even if it’s not a be-all and end-all.
I think – and this is entirely conjecture – that it may result in a little bit more churn when it comes to SERP results. Even though the engine is named as such to evoke speed and precision, the information that’s come out is focused on conversational search, the kinds of things I do when I’m walking around Seattle and want to find “restaurants near me” (which incidentally got a great result for me last night! thanks Google!).
If you mix conversational search with the ability to be fast and precise, I suspect that it means that the search engine itself will be a little more responsive, and learn a little quicker through user behavior which results people are actually looking for, which should enhance its ability to be precise. I’m not sure how personalized that result might be – whether if I search for “restaurants near me” Google will know that because I’ve searched for Vietnamese restaurants in the past, it will present me first with the pho restaurants in a six-block radius, followed by other results, but we’ll see.
In terms of how that affects SEO – I think the key is to continue to have relevant, engaging information for customers, which does include continuing to build out localized and long-tail content – if the search is going to try to get better at answering conversational questions, our sites should have those answers somewhere, preferably somewhere easy to get to and from.
Hummingbird is a clear step toward improving the intelligence of Google with regard to more complex, conversational search queries.
With this change, Google is anticipating an accelerated rise of mobile device usage, and specifically more voice-input search queries. Voice-input search queries tend to be longer and more colloquial in nature than typed search queries, so Google knows it needs to get intelligent enough to accurately handle the queries.
For the SEO industry, this is a big signal that mobile optimization, and specifically a mobile content strategy, is going to be necessary for getting visibility in Google over the next several years.
Oh boy! Well, here’s what we know about Hummingbird so far: NOTHING. Or rather, that it is “Specially designed to handle complex queries”. It’s all so clear! So, now it’s time to do what I imagine all the thought leaders are doing: Make wild guesses associated with junk stats!
Here’s what I think: A long, long time ago, Sergey Brin told an interviewer that he wanted to get to the point that people didn’t even need to type in a query to get the information they wanted. No. Queries. That’s the future of the internet.
Now, let’s assemble what else we know:
1. Google is putting a huge emphasis on Knowledge Graph and entities
2. As seen in Dr. Pete’s Beyond 10 Blue Links presentation, Google is also acting like a massive aggregator, trying to keep people from ever having to leave their shiny, white interface.
3. Google just took a whole bunch (namely, all of it) of organic keyword data hostage and told everyone it was for privacy. Then they went out and shot some photos of every street in the known universe and read all your e-mails. INTEGRITY!
4. Google continues to force everyone with a pulse to get onto Google+, going so far as to trick them into signing up.
5. Amit Singhal keeps talking about how he wants to build a computer like the one on Star Trek that answers any question he asks it and understands logical question strings (Like: “Where is the Eiffel tower”, followed by “How tall is it?”)
So, if we throw all these things in my speculative blender and title the outcome “What Joel Klettke Thinks of Hummingbird,” we get this:
Hummingbird is likely Google’s attempt to leverage the Knowledge Graph across a broader array of queries. I wouldn’t be shocked if they were interconnecting queries and search history to try and guess at the intent behind a search, following logical strings. I think when we think about “complex queries”, we think about people with specific questions. Like comparisons, which Google also showcased today – a side-by-side comparison box in the SERPs. I’d imagine Hummingbird is their means of trying to answer more complex questions with Knowledge Graph and the data they already have.
I’m guessing that KG is getting better and better at ripping apart elements of entities and using those to answer questions in helpful little boxes that rob every other site in the world of revenue.
Ta-da! But don’t take my word for it! Seriously, don’t. I don’t know anything, and anyone who says they do is trying to earn your clicks, which they will then cash in for Chuckee Cheese tokens and speaking gigs. (hint, hint. Speaking gigs. Joel Klettke. Logical string.)
It’s still very early, but Google is suggesting that “Hummingbird” is on the scale of Caffeine and may be a full-scale change to how the algorithm works.The Caffeine connection also implies new infrastructure and capabilities. When Caffeine rolled out, SEOs just heard “techie stuff blah blah blah”, didn’t see an immediate impact, and went on with their lives.
The reality is that Caffeine powered major algo updates for months, including (probably) Panda and Penguin.
Hummingbird could be the building blocks for the next stages of semantic search and the next major algo updates – we could be seeing the impact for months or years.
Google says that the Hummingbird update is impacting greater than 90% of all searches, and that it was implemented a few weeks ago on the down-low. They’ve not shared too much information about this update, other than it was the biggest update to the Google search algorithm since the Caffeine update back in 2009. Page also mentioned a tweak to the Knowledge Graph, which focuses on parsing searches to handle comparison questions. That could come in handy.
What I’m most upset about in the SEO world at this time, isn’t Hummingbird, but the fact that all search traffic from Google in Google Analytics is showing up as “100% Not Provided” on all non-Adwords searches.
I call that the “Dodo Bird” update. This will really make the job of doing SEO a bit more difficult.. but that always seems to be Google’s modus operandi, doesn’t it?
It’s finally time to embrace structured data and semantic SEO and implement it across your sites.
Since, quoting Google stormtroopers, the algo tweak is addressed toward more complex queries, I’ll venture to say, marketers may have a better chance to tinker with longer tail keywords and phrases as well as consider how a given product/service lends itself to other entities.
To get more specific with that last part, I see the algorithm’s evolution like that of a child: As the child has more experiences in the world, more discussions, and becomes exposed to more scholastic and practical information, the potential for more in-depth conversation with them increases.
With G mentioning they’re receiving ‘more complex’ queries (due to voice search), the way people leverage a query is evolving. Through typing, we kind of talk to Google like cave people, using very broad concepts (kind of like a small child). But waging voice search, we’re treating Google more mature, and being now 15, it’s had the time to grow it’s Knowledge Graph; it can have a more in-depth conversation, or so Google hopes.
All that being said, marketers may benefit from using such tools as Ubersuggest, minding what other kinds of information is related to a given keyword or phrase; it seems the more intelligent and in-depth ‘conversations’ brands index, the more chances they’ll have in Google aligning their information with users chasing specific wormholes.