At the end of September, Google retroactively announced that they had implemented a major rewrite of their infamous search engine algorithm, that they were naming “Hummingbird” for its speed and precision.
According to Google’s Amit Singhal, who discussed the algorithm change with Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, Google actually rolled this out a month ago, despite only announcing it last week. This also means that if you haven’t experienced a major drop in Google traffic, it probably hasn’t affected you.
This is also the biggest algorithm change that Google has done in many years, which makes it all the more surprising that it happened with such little fanfare.
(Or perhaps not, given the traditional outcry from the SEO community which they may be trying to avoid these days, considering the relatively recent news that changes would no longer be publicised.)
Changing Algorithms: The Impact
Usually, when Google makes a big change to their algorithm, you can hear the collective SEO cry of anguish across the world. This time, it doesn’t look like anybody really noticed anything.
It may have to do with the fact that, according to the report, this change focuses on things like “conversational search,” a relatively recent innovation, prompted no doubt by the rise of smart phone and other mobile searches.
With conversational search, users of Google’s chrome browser have the option to click a microphone icon, and speak their search to Google.
This big new update is intended to support this sort of searching more effectively, by interpreting the meaning behind the search request in order to deliver the most relevant results. The changes have also impacted things like comparative searches via Google’s Knowledge Graph.
The objective is to move away from searching for specific keywords on pages, and more into the territory of understanding what searchers want. Something that Google in general, (and Amit Singhal in particular) has been touting as the ideal for several years already.
Has Hummingbird improved search? Well, the short answer is that we don’t actually know. Since it rolled out almost invisibly, and has been running for over a month now, we can’t really compare old results with new ones.
(Remember when caffeine came with a comparison tool provided by Google? Ah, good days.)
Hummingbird & SEO
No, SEO still isn’t dead yet. According to Danny Sullivan, Google has said that their guidelines for SEO remain unchanged. Have original, high quality content just like always. Get it shared and linked to and promoted, just like always. And you’ll rank, just like always.
Nothing to see here folks. Move along.