What Does Google’s Hummingbird Update Mean for Small Business

The announcement of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm last month made quite a stir in the tech and SEO communities.

Hummingbird, the search giant’s largest search algorithm update since 2001. Photo: ContradoDigital/ Flickr

In the 2013 Google celebrated its 15th birthday and decided to give the Internet a shiny new present: Hummingbird, the search giant’s largest search algorithm update since 2001.

Google is trying to keep pace with the evolution of Internet usage. As search queries get more complicated, traditional “Boolean” or keyword-based systems begin deteriorating because of the need to match concepts and meanings in addition to words.

“Hummingbird” is the company’s effort to match the meaning of queries with that of documents on the Internet, said Singhal from the Menlo Park garage where Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin conceived their now-ubiquitous search engine.

Instead of traditional keyword searches the new Hummingbird uses conversational searches to deliver search results that are more on point with what users are looking for. The search content is displayed right on the search pages themselves, so making it easier for users to find the information they need.

“The main reasons Google created the Hummingbird update revolve around the nature by which people search more frequently,” said Kenneth Wisnefski, president and CEO of WebiMax, an Internet marketing company.

“Conversational search has become a large driver of the type of searches people search for, and the update provides a better result display to accommodate those requests.”

In practice, this means that users’ searches are becoming longer and more specific. Whereas prior search algorithms focused on keywords, the new algorithm will now focus on users’ intent by answering questions that they are asking in their searches, reports the Mashable.

The Hummingbird update will likely result in a shift for business website rankings. Before the 2010 SEO campaigns were measured primarily on keyword ranking. Later it shifted to ranking on pages not depending on their brand names.

With the evolution of personalized search the focus shifted to measuring non-branded traffic, with the intention of brining in new customers that would use the search engine to discover your business. With Google’s Hummingbird update and (not provide) keyword data, the focus has now shifted to the breadth of your website measured by number of pages receiving organic referrals.

The death of branded versus non-branded keyword traffic may be a blessing, as many now believe that branded mentions are a key signal in the Google algorithm.

While no one will deny that backlinks remain the primary driver of rankings, the anti-spam filters have also become much more sophisticated. Mentions of a small business company name, even when not accompanied by a backlink, are believed by many to be a signal of legitimacy, says Search Engine Watch.

As an added benefit, the Hummingbird update also gives businesses more topics to write about and provides an opportunity to update older, evergreen content that suffers from short-sighted tunnel vision, Sebald said.

“Content for the sake of ‘words on a page’ doesn’t have the base value it once had,” Sebald said. “Now, your content really has to answer something. This should move content strategy higher on the list of business marketing objectives; it’s now even more important for desktop and mobile SEO.”

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