Google turned 15 last week. With that birthday they released a new version of their search algorithm which determines how they return relevant and useful search results.
This is the most important update to their system since 2001 so it’s quite a change for Google.
Google have named the update Hummingbird. They say it’s because a hummingbird is fast and accurate, and that’s how their search will work.
What’s new with this update?
The last set of major updates (Panda and Penguin) brought new rules and penalised websites that broke those rules, so you might have a reason to feel anxious about the changes with this update.
The good news is the immediate changes aren’t huge. In fact Google silently rolled out this update over a month ago with search engine experts not realising. However, the changes will affect how we optimise our content in the near future.
Google Search will use its new ‘Knowledge Graph‘ to return more relevant results. The Knowledge Graph works like an information card for specific items. The search will use it to return results relevant to a complete sentence, instead of the individual words that make up the sentence, making the terms we type into the search more conversational and human.
The example Google gave was showing off their voice search by asking for pictures of the Eiffel Tower. After the pictures appeared, the presenter then asked “how tall is it?”. The search was able to identify that she was still talking about the Eiffel Tower, and return results for a search similar to “how tall is the Eiffel Tower?”.
What this means for your search engine optimisation
Since the Panda and Penguin updates, optimising your website for search engines has been all about producing content that is useful for potential readers. That content needs to be fresh, targeted and optimised with keywords and phrases.
The Hummingbird update will transition the way we optimise the content by putting more focus on complete sentences over individual keywords.
Previously we would breeze over the questions we think a potential client might ask when finding our content in order to identify the keywords. Now those questions will become increasingly important, and might even feature within the content itself.
In true Google tradition, the full details of the improvements are kept firmly behind the walls of Google itself, so we will learn more about the update as the months move forward and we see the results first hand.