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Google Hummingbird explained
This document contains confidential and proprietary information of iCrossing Inc.
Google Hummingbird explained
At the end of September, as part of its 15th anniversary celebrations, Google announced the introduction of Hummingbird, a new algorithm that allows the search engine to process and sort its index in a much more efficient way.
The new algorithm, named Hummingbird because it is fast and precise, is the biggest change Google has made for over 10 years.
Many people have compared Hummingbird to previous Google updates such as Penguin and Panda. The truth is that despite them all having animal-related names, they are very different. Penguin and Panda are considered algorithm updates. They are bolt-ons to the old algorithm. Hummingbird is a completely new algorithm in itself. Parts of the old algorithm, such as Penguin and Panda, are still used in Hummingbird but the foundations have fundamentally changed. Some other people have compared Hummingbird to Google Caffeine, an update to the indexing infrastructure that went live mid-2010. Caffeine was also a new algorithm, but the main difference is that Caffeine updated how Google crawled and indexed sites. Hummingbird deals with the second part of the results, which relates to how to process and order the results once they are in Google’s index.
With this new algorithm Google is much more able to understand the meaning of a sentence and return results to far more complex search queries. In the past Google analysed keywords individually and tried to match those individual keywords to the content of the site, but as search queries evolved, so has Google. With Hummingbird, Google is also much more capable of understanding the context around a search query. If you search for shops “around you” it wil know where you are located and it will display results accordingly. For example, if I was to search for “Where can I buy Adidas shoes around Brighton?” in the past the emphasis would have been given to “buy”, “Adidas” and “shoes”, thus displaying the Adidas’ homepage. However, with Hummingbird, Google is now able to understand that I am looking for a location related to Adidas shoes in Brighton and it is returning the Adidas store finder page as a first result. Similarly, you could ask “how tall is David Beckhamfollowed by “who is his wife?” and Google will understand you are referring to David Beckham’s wife, Victoria. Despite only being announced at the end of September, the update has been live for weeks. According to monitoring tools used by iCrossing, we can pinpoint the new algorithm release to the 20th of August 2013. On that day we saw a fairly substantial number of fluctuations across all industries.
What does it mean for on-site content & brands?
The last few years have been greatly focused on creating high-quality content that is useful to consumers. Hummingbird will not change that focus. Brands will still need to create engaging content that connects with users. This update is very much targeted at answering informational search queries more efficiently. Navigational and commercial search terms will remain important, but brands need to start thinking about expanding their content strategy and filling the knowledge gap existing in key informational areas. It is also worth mentioning that this change is mostly directed to mobile devices and voice-powered searches. It is now more important than ever to ensure your brand’s site is as mobile-friendly as possible. With voice, brands need to understand that search is moving away from keywords and
focusing even more on content. In the David Beckham example above, the second search query did not use his name at all. The new algorithm, considered by many as a move from Google to be a knowledge engine, is fuelled by the need to be more personalised with questions as well as answers. Engaging content is now more important than ever. iCrossing recommends implementing a fully developed content strategy to tackle Hummingbird. If your brand already has one in place, we recommend you to think about how it will be affected by semantic search, mobile and the growth of voice search. If not, please get in touch and see how iCrossing can help you make the most out of your content.
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