Just under a month ago, Google announced the launch of “Hummingbird”, their new search algorithm. Although Google announced the news on September 27th, Google has also admitted that they initially launched Hummingbird a month earlier – it just happens that many of us didn’t seem to notice.
So, if we didn’t notice, why should we care?
This is a change that is impacting how search may be done in the future, rather than in the past. Google is calling Hummingbird the most significant algorithm update they’ve made in years.
Google wants to do better at matching queries to results rather than just keywords. This is particularly important as voice search becomes more popular and people start asking their phones complex questions instead of typing simple searches. According to Danny Sullivan: Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words.
Hummingbird may better understand the actual location of your home, depending on if you’ve shared that with Google. So, you may ask it, “What are the nearest pizza places to my home?”
Google claims that the algorithmic change correlates to new technology they’ve developed called the “knowledge graph”. As we’ve iterated above, the knowledge graph revolutionizes search by not just using traditional keyword search. Instead, it actually tries to understand facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected. By enabling the knowledge graph to map relationships between many things, Google can use this information to answer more complex queries by users. Take Pizza Hut for instance. According to Search Engine Land, a search query for “pizza hut calories per slice” used to return a result that looked like this:
As you can see, the result was not actually from Pizza Hut. With the addition of Hummingbird, however, Search Engine Land attests that now the search query should theoretically return a result directly from Pizza Hut that will look like this:
You see, Google is tweaking their formula used to determine your page ranking. Prior to the launch of Hummingbird, small businesses used to obsess over the rankings of their top money keywords. Google has shifted their focus from keywords and built Hummingbird to instead, consider the breadth of your website. Now the paradigm shift has determined that your page rank is based on the different site entrances your business has and the quality of the content on those pages. This is a clear indicator that offsite SEO continues to grow in importance and mentions and references from other trusted sources are vital. It is also now critically important that the content on your website answers questions for end users.
So how will Hummingbird affect local search?
2013 has proven to be very dramatic year for SEO with major changes from Google in the form of Hummingbird, the local carousel rankings, local pop-ups and "(not provided)". The emphasis on keywords has shifted to focus on the breadth of a website’s entrance pages and business owners who need to adjust their thinking. Local SEO is not dead; it is just changing shape.
Despite the theory behind how Hummingbird is projected to work, not all the bugs have been worked out quite yet. Here at Chatmeter, we’ve tried to see how accurate Google returns results when we typed in “what is the nearest pizza place to me” and this is what the query returned:
We were hoping for better results. Google showed no local listings in their results page. . Only websites for pizza places appeared in the results. Of course, Hummingbird is just a newborn baby, so it may take time to learn how to fly.