What is Google Hummingbird?

Have you heard about Google Hummingbird but aren’t quite sure what it actually is?

It’s been a little too long since we made a blog post, apologies it’s because the past few months we have been far too busy working on our clients projects to have time to update our own blog. We are back on track now and thought it was time to point out something quite important in the search engine world that happened around September 27th 2013. Google made a significant update to their search algorithm(without officially announcing it straight away) and code-named it Hummingbird. This is Hummingbirds official logo:

Google Hummingbird logo

So what is Google Hummingbird?

Google search is run by a number of complex algorithms that help to sort the pages on the web and index them based on many different factors. These algorithms try to understand what your Google Search query means, then they try to match your query to the most relevant pages on the world wide web.

Google Hummingbird is the latest update to the algorithm that runs Google Search. Previous algorithm updates code-named Google Penguin and Google Panda caused quite a shake up in which websites that were ranking well ended up having massive drops in traffic.

Check out this great interactive explanation of How Search Works. A little tip you need to scroll down the page and as you do a new animation starts explaining the next part of the story.

Hummingbird is designed to try and better understand the actual semantic meaning behind your question, to really understand exactly what context it is in and hence deliver you a better and more relevant list of results. Instead of looking at each word in your question as seperate entities it is more trying to understand the full question that is being asked by the whole phrase.

The Knowledge Graph

Hummingbird is meant to be using alot more of the massive amounts of data Google has collected in the Knowledge Graph to help deliver you a better search result. Check out this blog post about the Knowledge Graph on Google’s official blog which helps to explain what it is. Also check out this YouTube video Google published about the Knowledge Graph:

Will Google Hummingbird affect your search engine rankings?

At this stage there doesn’t seem to be any massive affect on search engine rankings due to Hummingbirds release that we have observed. If your website and content has been created well and followed best practises for SEO and online marketing in general you should not have to worry about any major amounts of traffic dropping off due to Hummingbird.

Creating high quality website content that is focused on answering questions about your particular offering, and informing people in a way they can understand is the way to go.

You should be aiming to create content that educates people about why your solution will solve their problem, then feeding the traffic that this content generates through to your relevant buying and product pages. We can help show you how to do this, feel free to make an enquiry we would love to hear from you.

Long Tail Keywords

As Hummingbird is being geared towards better understanding the meaning of a question, long tail keyword research and optimisation is most likely going to become a lot more important than it already is.

Essentially you need to be creating content that is optimised for the long tail keywords that will attract the kind of traffic that is going to convert into a sale. What is a long tail keyword you ask?

Long Tail Keywords

A long tail keyword is a phrase consisting of more than 3 words that is more descriptive and specific than a shorter search phrase. These kinds of phrases have a lot less search engine traffic, however they have a much higher conversion rate due to the fact that they are so specific.

These terms are often overlooked as they have such low traffic, but this is a mistake as even though the traffic is low they have a much higher chance of generating you a new sale or lead.

When you have created your content that contains these keyword phrases that people actually search for but there is low competition for, you will then start to rank organically in the search engines for those terms.

Ideally it is much easier to rank for many low competition keywords than it is to rank for highly competitive keywords. So it’s much easier to get smaller slices of many smaller pies than it is to compete for a very small piece of the big pie.

User intent is the key

We think Hummingbird is a step forward in the world of search. It can only be a good thing if the underlying meaning of your search phrases is going to be understood better by Google. This means more relevant results and you should find exactly what it is you are looking for.

No more keyword data in Google Analytics

As Hummingbird was released there was one other change that many website owners and online marketers may not have been very fond of at all. They have started to encrypt all search query data which means webmasters will no longer be able to see exactly which keywords are being used in search engine traffic in Google Analytics.

Basically all keyword search data is going to be shown as “Not Provided”. Google started doing this 2 years ago for anyone actually logged into a Google account while performing a search.

Pretty soon the only way to be able to see search query keywords will be via paid search(Google AdWords). This is surely going to push online marketers a lot harder to be able to get results from organic search, and will most likely push more businesses towards using paid advertising.

Keyword data is still available in Google Webmaster Tools but it mainly shows impressions and clicks, you can’t attribute the exact keyword phrase to a conversion like you can in Google Analytics. It does also show CTR(Click Through Rate) which is quite useful to see which keywords are more engaging with your content in the search engine results.

If you are interested to learn more about the “Not Provided” keyword data issue you can have a read of this very in depth article on Occam’s Razor blog by Avinash Kaushik. He explains the whole issue in great depth and offers a few possible solutions for online marketers to use to get around the lack of keyword data that we are so used to using.

Articles about Google Hummingbird

Here a few good articles about Google Hummingbird if you’d like to learn some more about it.

Google Hummingbird & The Keyword: What You Need To Know To Stay Ahead

Should You Change Your SEO Strategy Because of Google Hummingbird?

Hummingbird Unleashed

Conclusion – Should you be worried about Google Hummingbird?

From what we have seen so far and from what has been observed by the industry we don’t believe there is any cause for concern. If your website has been built and SEO optimised well and you don’t employ black hat SEO practises you should be safe from any rankings dropping.

However that isn’t to say that the rolling upgrades and minor updates to the Hummingbird algorithm won’t effect websites in the future. We will just have to wait and see.

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