Google Hummingbird Algorithm – What You Need to Know

Hummingbird
Image sourced from MrClean1982 on Flickr

Last week, google announced a new search algorithm called Hummingbird. This is the biggest algorithm change Google have made since Caffeine in 2010. So what's the deal? Is Hummingbird something you should be worrying about? Will your rankings drop? And is there anything you need to consider when it comes to your SEO strategy moving forward?

Hummingbird has been running for a month already, so if your rankings haven't been affected by it so far, it is relatively unlikely that Hummingbird is going to affect your rankings in a negative way. That doesn't mean the algorithm doesn't warrant some consideration however.

The focus of this algorithm update is on “conversational search”. That means Google are looking at the 'meaning' of what a user searches for rather than just matching keywords in the search. For example, a search like “where is the closest supermarket to my house?” is more likely to result in the results looking for (if Google knows where your house is).

It is difficult to say at this stage the impact Hummingbird should have on your SEO strategy. In my opinion, if this is the direction Google are going in, it stands to reason the more that Google knows about you the better you are going to rank. Local SEO and on-site optimisation immediately spring to mind. I recommend at this point, if you haven't already, it might be a good idea to look into schema.org. This provides a way of providing structured information that search engines can use to better understand your site.

Schema is not a new thing. It hasn't affected rankings directly in the past as far as I know, but that doesn't mean it won't in the future. I'm not saying it definitely will, but if Google are looking at making their algorithm answer conversational queries more accurately, it makes sense for them to use schema.org markup to better understand the web. What schema.org definitely is useful for is getting rich snippets like this displaying in the SERP's:

Rich Snippet

Rich snippets could easily help get more people clicking through from the SERPs to your website, and that is nothing new.

So is Hummingbird a good thing? Well, I think it will improve the quality of google's product. Improving the algorithms to understand semantics is a step in the right direction for the future of search in my opinion.  How we need to account for these changes as SEOs only time can really tell.

SEO