The Hummingbird update from the bods over at Google is about a lot more than just producing better search results for a given set of keywords that are typed into its search box; the change is really a paradigm shift in a world where we now use the platform of search in more ways than it was originally intended.
What is the point?
One of the key drivers behind this movement is the increase of searches from users that involve direct questions. Instead of the previous model where users would be searching for articles relating to a set of keywords – like, for example, “charles bukowski books and poems”, users are now looking for specific answers to questions (as if Google was the oracle) and this would often now be phrased, “what books and poems have been written by charles bukowski?”. This makes sense from Google’s current roadmap where they appear to be trying to keep users glued to Google assets instead of quickly venturing off to other places, which can be seen previously from the huge shake-up to Google Images.
The original founders of ask.com (previously Ask Jeeves) must be kicking themselves for being so far ahead of the curve after launching the original seed for this way of searching back in 1996 – before Google, I should add – without anywhere near the level of success.
Interestingly, the results for the example questions written above are quite different for both Google and Ask; the former takes you straight to Bukowski’s Wikipedia entry (I imagine this will be a top-hitter for most questions of this type on Google), whereas Ask immediately throws you ads – with a link to Amazon product results ‘usefully’ shown at the top – but coupled with a helpful author bio listing which has a far more usable feel to it than Google’s answer. It’s just a slight shame there’s such an overdose of ads appearing at the top, but I guess they need to generate income somehow in order to compete.
And what about SEO?
The introduction of Hummingbird has been fairly undramatic in its entry and especially when compared to its predecessors Panda and Penguin, which caused SERP changes on the same scale of tectonic-plate movements in the webmaster underworld. However, Hummingbird hasn’t had quite the earth-shattering impact on results themselves due to the nature of its changes and really, there hasn’t been a huge amount for SEO pros to fuss about, even with about 90% of searches on the platform being affected by the new algorithm and it being the largest change to the algorithm in 12 years.
Nothing monumental is changing here, but the focus on newer signals like authorship and content compartmentalising (Videos, Shopping, Images etc) for relevance will begin to play bigger roles in shaping the future of search. The fundamentals are still the same and the old adage of content is king will remain for posterity.
Forget trying to game the algorithm with question oriented articles and stick with quality writing, coupled with natural link profiles and you will be golden.
Yes, I know, this article is a paradox.
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