Google turned 15 last week, and for their birthday they gave us a new algorithm! How kind. Hummingbird isn't actually an update; it's a complete replacement of the current algorithm, a major change last seen in 2001. The name was coined from Google thinking of it as "precise and fast", much like the delicate and incessant motions of a Hummingbird. The new algorithm will enhance search for users across the globe by moving towards interpreting user intent rather than individual keywords.
With voice search features such as Siri, a lot has changed in the way that people find information, particularly on their mobile phones. With this in mind, Google has started looking at the various different ways in which people search and it's definitely geared towards the massive uptake in mobile search.
Taking Semantic Search To The Next Level
Search has been evolving for a long time, always moving with the needs of the user. The Panda and Penguin updates have already taught us some lessons in how to best serve the user in terms of content and quality web experiences, now Hummingbird is the next step to ensuring that each user finds exactly what he or she wants or needs by interpreting their intent.
As mentioned, mobile is a strong driving factor behind the changes made to the algorithm. Voice search gives users the opportunity to search in a more conversational manner, so although they're looking for the same thing, they're searching for it in a different way. If you're looking for office printers in your local surroundings, chances are you'd type in "office printers Johannesburg" or wherever you're located. But if you're using voice search, you'd more than likely come up with a query such as "where's the closest office printer supplier" or one that uses similar words such as "in my vicinity" or "close to my location". While conventional search as we know it would match the major key-phrases in that query, Hummingbird will try and interpret the gist of what the user is requesting by looking at each individual word. The query in its entirety has meaning and Hummingbird aims to interpret that completely.
Using GPS location detection, Google will also be able to define your current location so that queries involving "nearby" or "close to me" will be served matching results.
Will Hummingbird Work The Way It Should?
It's difficult to say whether or not it will, but according to reports, it had already rolled out a month before they made the announcement, and had subsequently displayed some impressive changes. Where users were searching for particular services within a prescribed bank, they were always getting served the strongest page on that bank's website, rather than exactly what they needed. This, according to an example Google used, has changed and matches exactly what the user is requesting.
Other examples that might have been ambiguous before, have now delivered refined results where each word in the query string has been identified as part of a whole question, and not as individual, standalone keywords as was the case before. We can only wait and see for ourselves how our search experiences have evolved since the change, and use this to better serve our own users.
In saying that...
What Do YOUR Users Want?
- What is it your users would gain from your website and services and how can you serve their needs?
- Have you formulated your content correctly so that it speaks to these needs?
We need to understand exactly what our services can offer so as to answer the questions that will be asked.
Think about how you would ask a question about your business or services if you were simply having a conversation with another person. Google's Knowledge Graph has already been answering these questions, but now Hummingbird will hopefully be interpreting them too.
Have you already encountered a change brought about by Hummingbird? Let us know about your experiences.