How Will Google’s Hummingbird Affect Your Search Ranking?

SEO Like You Mean It – And What You Do Better Be True

google hummingbird algorithm

It’s likely that you haven’t noticed the recent Google upgrade to Hummingbird, a completely new algorithm that was launched on September 26, 2013, Google’s 15th birthday. It’s also likely that your website traffic hasn’t changed and your position in Google Search hasn’t dropped. Or perhaps I should say that hopefully you haven’t noticed and hopefully, it hasn’t dropped. Because that would indicate that you’ve been paying attention and following smart practices for SEO, authorship, content development and marketing, engaging in social media and creating a cohesive, authentic you (and your business) across the web to build authority and share your expertise concisely. But there are plenty of other changes afoot.

Your rankings may not have changed but with Hummingbird the way data is displayed has. At times, even sites with top ranking will lose click-throughs because the answer may be shown directly in the search results page via the Knowledge Graph made up of curated, validated and verified answers. This brings the searcher a more precise answer faster by bypassing the need to visit a website for their answer.

The Birds

Hummingbird got its name because of the precise, fast nature of hummingbirds. It’s interesting to me that hummingbirds are also fierce, territorial, noisy, pushy dive-bombers. I know this because we happen to have a hummingbird infestation in our yard and have to fill our two feeders every single day to keep them satiated. I have absolutely no idea if these characteristics relate to Google’s species of Hummingbird, but it’s fascinating to note.

This Is A Big Development

This is the biggest Google algorithm change in 12 years. Here we go, folks, if you needed it, this is proof that Semantic Search is solidly moving forward. Google is providing answers to our queries and the nature of both the answers and the queries are in the midst of revolutionary change. We can ask our questions without narrowly choosing a couple of (key) words or phrases. Instead, we can speak them for voice search in mobile, type them on desktop naturally in the way we think. Hummingbird represents the ability for Google to understand conversational questions and return answers to us. This is the nature of semantic search. Intent and meaning. David Amerland, in his book Google Semantic Search, goes into this in astounding depth. I highly recommend you click that link, buy the book and read it. I discuss how it effects small business in my review if you want a quick peek at the some of the implications. Google is working hard to deliver answers to our questions in a fast and precise manner and this new algorithm is all about that. Another step for the rise of Semantic Search.

Brand Sparkling New

Just to be clear: Hummingbird is not an update. It’s a brand new algorithm and replaces its predecessor.  That’s not to say that all the factors we’ve come to be familiar with are a thing of the past. Google has incorporated them into Hummingbird. Penguin and Panda have been incorporated, there are still over 200 signals in determining search positioning, PageRank is one of them so the right kind of back-links from good sources still matter and Google Plus is part of the search experience picture. However, Hummingbird proves Google’s move away from the old reliance on key words.

Natural Language Queries

According to Bill Slawski, who studies and reports on Google patents, authoritative links to your site still matter. “Google doesn’t appear to have replaced previous signals such as PageRank or many of the other signals that they use to rank pages…. It’s being presented as a query expansion or broadening approach which can better understand longer natural language queries, like the ones that people might speak instead of shorter keyword matching queries which someone might type into a search box.” This means a lot has changed. And it’s tremendously significant.

What has not changed is that original, high-quality content is still the most critical aspect of our SEO strategies. It’s still important to create and promote your content across all your social channels to build and maintain a cohesive, authentic message for your business. Authorship is more important than ever and if you haven’t yet established it, hurry up and get it done.

John Dietrich: “Google Hummingbird, because of its semantic nature, presents businesses with the opportunity to display expertise or authority in a particular field…. As part of Google’s move toward the semantic web they have removed access to keyword data. This is a signal to businesses that keywords are taking a back seat, and this provides opportunity to businesses.“

I’m not always a huge fan of infographics these days but while this one isn’t perfect, I do feel that it’s quite a helpful tool for gaining the basics of understanding on this development, particularly for those of you not directly involved with SEO per se. So take a look and thanks to Frank Gainsford on Google+ for passing on the link to his pin.


Posted By : Sarvesh Bagla

Pre-remixed hummingbird photo credit: Pretty Poo Eater via photopin cc

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    By: Gina Fiedel

    Gina Fiedel is the co-founder/owner of Fat Eyes Web Development. After a successful career as an artist and transitioning into electronic media in the early 90’s, she then founded Fat Eyes in 1998 to bring those skills to the web with her husband, Doug Anderson. Being engaged in business has created gratifying opportunities for communication and new inroads towards making a contribution that counts. You can learn more about Gina on the Fat Eyes Who Are We? page and Gina Fiedel Story.

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4 replies
  1. Jon Dawson
    Jon Dawson says:

    Excellent post. A friend referred me to you and i must say I’m glad I found you. Your content is amazing and the hummingbird I never knew that. Abosoutly excellent work

  2. Calla Gold
    Calla Gold says:

    Thank you for this excellent post. I feel I understand Hummingbird better. The infographic you found is just great! I plan to share it with my SMART (Social Media Action Relationship Team) group next week.
    Thank you again Gina.

    • admin
      admin says:

      Thank you Calla! I am glad you found the post to be helpful. I was happy to trip on that infographic. I often avoid using them, but this one was begging to be used. Thanks also for sharing with your group. Much appreciated.


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