Google uses various algorithms to provide everyone with the most relevant and useful search results including Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird. Each of these interprets the search terms entered in different ways. This ensures the search results produced for users are high quality, location-based and mobile friendly. Previously, we took a deeper look at What is Rankbrain. In this article, we have taken an SEO-focused look at one of these algorithms – Google Hummingbird.
What is Google Hummingbird?
Google’s Hummingbird update was introduced back in 2013 as an overhaul to the existing core search algorithm. Its primary objective was to look into the intent behind searches. This supports in providing more relevant results, rather than just matching words with highly trusted websites. Overall in the SEO community, this was the smoothest of all the previous algorithm updates with no massive outcry that rankings had dropped as a result of it – particularly compared with Panda and Penguin. However, local search results were impacted by the change in various cases.
Key Features of Hummingbird
The objective of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm was to go beyond matching keywords. This is known as semantic search. This was developed to understand the intent behind those words by looking at the semantics of what people searched for.
Prior to Hummingbird, Google announced their knowledge graph. This was not an actual graph, just a set of SERP features that answered queries on people, places and things. This was the first step towards understanding search intent by providing more content-rich results. A classic example is for a dessert such as an “apple pie”. Not only will Google search results provide standard results for recipes but they also introduced a knowledge bar. This bar includes things such as steps for the recipes, ingredients/nutritional information of a typical apple pie and related desserts such as cookies or cakes.
The semantic search aspect of Hummingbird improves on these results to aid the knowledge graph. It does this by looking at the potential intent behind a search like ‘apple pie’. It evaluates that the user may want to make a pie or learn some information about an apple pie. So, rather than just providing basic information about the dessert, it provides a wealth of relevant information related to the search term.
Hummingbird and Local Search
Hummingbird searches for user intent to provide localised information. So, if you search for ‘pizza’ you will automatically be shown local pizza takeaway stores before other, less relevant websites. This is because Google sees the intent behind a search like ‘pizza’ as a desire from the user to find pizza in their area. So these local-based results are the first thing the user will see.
Hummingbird and Voice Search
Voice search has been on the rise since the introduction of Siri on the iPhone in 2011. Today, it controls a sizeable amount of the overall searches engines like Google receive, with 42% of early adopters in the UK using voice search daily. It is because of this that Google wants to understand the intent behind your search queries. Hummingbird understands spoken natural language more effectively than previous algorithms. This is different to looking at the individual keywords to decipher intent and provide better quality results.
SEO Opportunities of Hummingbird
The Hummingbird algorithm didn’t have the same widespread impact on rankings that others had in the past. Although, it did improve the experience for the user. However, because of the focus on localised and voice results optimising your content for it may have a positive impact on rankings. You have to consider the natural language people use when searching for products and services and incorporate this into your content. You also must complete your business’s location data using Google My Business. This information will ensure your site reaches the intended audience in localised searches.
Essentially, you should see Hummingbird as an SEO opportunity. Websites that can smartly identify and publish answers to Google’s most popular search queries can become a trusted resource for individual topics. This increases your chances of appearing as an answer box or in the knowledge panel.
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