Google has changed its search algorithm hundreds of times since 2001, but Google’s head of search, Amit Singhai, is on record saying this is the biggest shift in recent memory: Not merely an update, but a complete transformation of Google’s underlying math.
Google’s software has always been evolving, but the last few years brought tectonic change. It’s more important than ever that search results not only be relevant, but timely and helpful, too. But it’s not happening in a vacuum: Like you, Google is adapting to its marketplace.
Apple's ubiquitous personal assistant, Siri, is powered by Microsoft-owned search engine Bing. Microsoft search head Qi Lu says Bing fields billions of queries across iOS and Kindle mobile devices. Apple dropped Google in 2013, around the same time Hummingbird went live. Long story short, it's all about mobile.
Latent Semantic Indexing is crucial to Google's ability to handle voice search queries, people don't talk like they type...
The key to Hummingbird is latent semantic indexing: The ability to understand what users want when they don’t use the keywords Google expects... or don’t exactly know, themselves.
That means going beyond matching search keywords to pages and understanding user intent. It’s crucial to Google’s ability to handle voice searches: People don’t talk like they type.
Mobile Now Fields More Searches than Desktop—Hummingbird is Google’s Answer
So, what does it all mean for my website?
Past algorithm changes—like “Panda” and “Penguin”—have come with a slew of recommendations for businesses that use Google search to generate Web traffic.
Hummingbird is a little more complicated. Unlike the others, it’s not intended to change what online brands are doing: Instead, it makes current Web content more accessible to mobile users.
It also helps deliver related results based on similar words rather than exact matches.
But, aligning your website with Google’s changing expectations has always been about reading between the lines, and there are some lessons you can take from Hummingbird:
Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Google made mobile compatibility a search ranking factor in April, 2015. That update gave priority to sites that offer a mobile-friendly design and convenient user experience for phones and tablets. Hummingbird isn’t directly related, but it reaffirms Google’s commitment to mobile platforms. Make sure your site is responsive and has mobile users’ needs in mind.
Don’t Worry Too Much About Keywords
Hummingbird enhances Google’s ability to decipher the context of search queries. That means having the “perfect” keyword or phrase on a page loses a little of its punch—but keywords are still helpful to users. To earn good search placement, Web content should be less focused on keywords and more focused on answering specific questions.
Make Sure Official Sources Are Accurate
Hummingbird helps Google answer queries with the “Knowledge Graph,” an encyclopedia-style sidebar that provides photos and facts. The Graph often pops up on questions about notable people, locations, and objects. If your business is “notable,” make sure your official pages and publications are accurate: Knowledge Graph might just use them.
Focus on Your Expertise—Be Broad & Bold
If focusing on familiar industry terminology isn’t enough, what should you do? The broader your base of Web content, the more likely your site will appear for mobile and Knowledge Graph search queries. Consistently developing informative, quality content is more important than ever for differentiating your brand—to your customers and to Google itself.
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