Google have launched a new search algorithm – without telling anybody. It could have far-reaching impacts on optimising sites for mobile.
Hummingbird: Google's surprise new algorithm
It's been a shock week in the world of SEO, as online marketers have discovered that Google has launched not just an update to its search results but a whole new algorithm. On top of this potentially game-changing news, we've learned the internet mammoth has been running its new algorithm for a month already.
Those in the know had reported some uncommon occurrences in the world of search – but Google isn't exactly renowned for letting people in on its decisions and changes do happen relatively frequently. However, no one expected a whole new algorithm.
What is this new algorithm?
The new algorithm has been named Hummingbird as, like the bird, it has been designed to be fast and precise. This upheaval differs from other updates such as Penguin and Panda, which amended specific aspects of the old algorithm but weren't completely new systems.
Google's search chief Amit Singhal claims such a massive amendment hasn't happened since 2001.
While Hummingbird is entirely new, it does still utilise a fair chunk of the previous incarnation's filters, rules and weights – and the fact that it was in use for a month without anyone noticing very much at all should be some comfort to website owners and SEOs.
However, don't let its similarities to the old lull you into a false sense of security. Experts claim this change could effect up to 90 per cent of searches, so it is well worth looking into how the amendments could affect your online marketing.
How is Hummingbird different?
This update seems to be taking the concept of search in a different direction. While “relevance” of the results is still a key aspect of what Google aims to achieve, the answers given will focus more on the semantics of the question. Essentially, Hummingbird is a change to how a query is interpreted, in order to provide a more conversational level of search.
What this all adds up to is the provision of more accurate search results as what we ask search engines, and how we ask it, gets more and more complex.
Hummingbird and mobile technology
The new algorithm is a direct response to mobile web browsing technology, which sees users asking questions quite differently than while at a static computer. Using a mobile device you might be more inclined to use voice search, and your query may be more complicated.
For example, you might ask Google through your smart-phone to find a “women's shoe shop close to home.” Rather than focusing “women's” and “shoe” and providing websites selling such items, Google will have a greater understanding that you want to locate the whereabouts of a physical shoe store.
Hummingbird's conversational search focuses more on the meaning behind the words rather than the keywords themselves.
Hummingbird and long tail searches
Mobile searching means long tail queries are becoming ever more popular. These are search terms which have multiple words, making an altogether more specific phrase and are something Google has reportedly had trouble with in the past.
By using a conversational approach to understanding queries Google assesses the entire meaning of questions rather than just key terms. Ultimately, what Hummingbird will provide is more relevant results for the searcher in a much more natural, more conversational manner.
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