By Nicolas Pustilnick

Hummingbird and the future of search engine optimisation

This week Google announced that Hummingbird, the largest upgrade to it’s search algorithm since 2001, has been live for “a few months”. Where Panda was focused on content and Caffeine improved on speed, Hummingbird is at it’s heart an update which attempts to address semantic search. Every SEO company in Sydney tuned in to read the details of this latest update and we learned that while search engine optimisation is far from a dead art, it is clear that things are changing. Statistics are being phased out of search, in favour of semantic relevance and association.

Humingbird, panda, pigeon                                                                                                                                    image source:iprospect.ie 

By evolving toward semantic search, Google are matching query intent and query meaning rather than matching entered keywords and keyword content on the page. In basic terms this means that Google is now beginning to understand what you mean when you enter a search query. Where previously you might type “SEO services Sydney” into the search engine, now Google will understand a more human questions, “Who can make my website popular in Sydney?”.

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The obvious application for this is in voice search, where being able to understand how humans ask questions is vital. What has become clear since the birth of voice search is that people are unwilling to talk in keywords. While we may be used to typing in a non human way we are not prone to speak in the same fashion. However, as all of the web is now focused on a “strings to things” philosophy, it’s important for search engine optimisation in general.

Google is becoming  less of a search engine and more of an answer engine. Successive searches allows a user to ask a question, clarify details, drill down for more information and increase the relevancy of search results. Whenever Google make an update it has some implications for search engine optimisation. There will always be a group who decry the change and push back. However with a bit of adaptation, and by following Google’s guidelines for search engine optimisation, Hummingbird can prove advantageous.

For local SEO the move to Hummingbird gives local businesses opportunities to tailor their online semantic profile. Using semantic data like geotags, is vital in the mobile world, allowing people who are actively searching nearby to find you. This makes semantic search a huge advantage for the little guy as far as developing a content marketing strategy, and coming first in results. Similarly, if a business is working hard on building up true social media outlets, with quality relevant content and real engagement, hummingbird will reward these efforts.

hummingbird semantic

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The semantic shift is coming, like it or not, this is how search is going to be from now on. It makes sense that we move away from a world where keywords and links are the only decider for rankings. That doesn’t foster a landscape where natural human queries can work The takeaway from this is: as long as you are creating great content, of high quality and relevance and answering the questions your customers ask, your search engine optimisation efforts will be bolstered with semantic search.

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