Google has always been industrious in tweaking its algorithms. Even in the early days, it was always looking for ways to improve the searcher’s experience. However the last few years has witnessed the disruptive Caffeine, Panda and Penguin updates from which many Australian SEO firms and internet marketers are still reeling.
Recently, around the time of their 15th birthday, they announced the launch of yet another major update. This one came with no fanfare and without the eruption of panic and brouhaha in webmaster forums that usually accompanies a major Google change.
The new update comes with the sleek name of Hummingbird. According to the search giant, that’s because it’s ‘precise and fast’.
So what’s Hummingbird all about?
Hummingbird is not so much a tweak as a whole new algorithm. Its key feature is that it focuses more on semantic relationships rather than individual keywords and phrases.
Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, explained the new strategy was processing queries in a way that was less like a search and more like a conversation. It’s a shift from handling keyphrases to parsing natural queries, from keyword matching to user question matching.
Google is aware that with the growth of mobile internet access, many users now use voice recognition via mobile phones. This is more likely to result in queries that are full sentences, especially questions. If you’re speaking into your Mobile phone, you’re more likely to say ‘where’s the best place in Wollongong to buy a wedding gown’ than ‘Wollongong’ ‘wedding gown’.
One important point is that the ranking criteria haven’t changed radically. What’s improved is Google’s ability to measure such key criteria as the quality of your content and the relevance of your links. In other words, it makes it harder for black hatters to game the system.
What’s your takeaway as an Australian SEO specialist?
As always, Google is striving to enhance the user experience. To succeed at SEO you need to apply the same criteria as ever – publish only unique, quality content, avoid black-hat or ever gray hat techniques, and garner genuine high PR back links. The good news is that once shareable content is in place, natural back links will surely follow.
You might also want to consider basing your keyword research not just on distinct keywords and phrases, but as full sentences. One neat move is to have a solid FAQ page on each site. Your content strategy should be focused even more on answering user queries and offer a problem solution format.
With Hummingbird, Google has simply reaffirmed that valuable content and genuine links are at the heart of website criteria. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it should be.