Like the mystery & intrigue of Jason Bourne being found floating in the Mediterranean Sea, at the murky start of the Bourne Identity movie, we’ll commence our discussion of the unveiling of Google’s latest Hummingbird search algorithm. The back-story will come in bits and pieces, in part here, and in related future Hummingbird posts and articles. An acknowledgement and special thanks are due to Michael Marshall who granted permission to share excerpts from his special Hummingbird bonus session given during a recent NC Search Engine Academy workshop in Raleigh, NC.
Announced on September 27, 2013, Google’s official 15th birthday, Hummingbird was introduced as the next step in search technology for results that responded, in a more human conversational way, via natural language processing & artificial intelligence (AI), providing an improved user experience. Quoting Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President & software engineer at Google, Inc., he explained the algorithm change in simplified terms, “It’s as if it dropped the old engine out of a car and put in a new one.”
Why is the Algorithm Change Called Hummingbird?
In short, it’s because “It’s precise and fast.” in the results that it gives, per Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand.com & MarketLand.com, which is corroborated in a recent Hummingbird blog post by Eric Ward. Eric, by the way, is the only search engine optimizer (SEO) that I’m aware of who has been endorsed by Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google.
Hummingbird is precise because Google follows your search behavior, in its context, picks up on your preferences (likes & dislikes), sees who you are socially connected to & influenced by, so that it now delivers what you’re looking for with much more personalized accuracy (e.g. – a search result that provides the Thai restaurant location, on a local map, around the corner, with reviews from your friends, rather than a origins of Thai food dishes, or an encyclopedia of Thai food, when searching on your smart phone for, “I’m looking for some Thai food”).
PLEASE NOTE – Contrary to some articles, Hummingbird is not just about mobile search; ALL search platform results are now impacted with the new algorithm.
And, Hummingbird is fast, in that it reaps the benefits of a earlier updates, of “caffeine” (fast indexing process of new web content), with the filtering of “panda” (lowering content value on duplicate material), of “penguin” (devaluing content that has unnatural, questionable or spammy inbound links). But it’s more than that; Hummingbird also try’s to anticipate your objectives by factoring in search term synonyms, based on mass online queries & usage, of millions of other users.
It’s complicated, I know, but for a deeper dive and a more detailed analysis of what the Hummingbird search engine is all about, from a review of Google’s filed patent, see Bill Slawski’s article, The Google Hummingbird Patent, on the topic.
For the moment, think of Hummingbird as an enhanced “Google Now” (the right information at just the right time) personalized experience on steroids, utilizing a “freebase” (online community-curated database) structured data set & “knowledge graph” (semantic search results involving common place language) , with AI interpretive elements, so, that which it delivers, is truly the, “good stuff” as judged from a human perspective, both quickly and accurately.
Where is Google Going With Hummingbird?
Per Mike Marshall, Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, a trans-humanist & futurist (altruistic merger of imbedding technology within humans), and Director of Engineering at Google, Inc., is the one leading the way for Google to turn from being a “search engine” to a “digital personal assistant”. It is Google’s intent to have the search browser understand the searcher’s “intent, meaning and intelligence” when conducting any query.
The future of search takes things a step further; Google will want to be able to figure out, and anticipate, what you want and need, even before you ask for it. Imagine having a chip in your brain that is always connected to the net, providing you continuous feed of information in a predictive manner. Will it be the Borg, or something gentler and kinder?
So, Is SEO Dead?
This question gets asked every time Google search rolls out a new update or tweak to their search algorithm. Suffice it to say that the updates only reflect what Google has been saying for many years now, provide quality content in a proper context with responsible sharing, and if it is of true value, and re-share worthy, your content will rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
That said, there are things that can be done to keep the new algorithm happy; that is, “Feed the bird”. And, what does a hummingbird like to eat? I believe NECTAR is one of it’s favorites.
How Do I Optimize For Hummingbird?
As can be viewed from your own home back window, when the hummingbird is fed NECTAR, it will be happy, and it will keep coming back again and again as long as you provide the yummy food that it seeks. Here’s a breakdown.
New Spin on “Conversational” Search
Conversation = Semantics (terms used)+ Implied Intent (personal search history + purchases + sphere of influence) In other words, “What’s your persona, your target persona, and how do you interact for maximum impact?”
Things Not Strings (Old – linking pages for popularity, trust & relevancy VS. New – pages provide entity attributes, e.g. – Movies imply: director, actors, year, quotes, reviews, etc.) As in everyday life, we think and operate in a world of “concepts”, e.g. – “Should I buy this new car?”, as compare to 1,2 or 3 word phrased keywords, e.g. – “best car dealer”.
Co-occurrence (NLP) & Synonyms
Context of your words, related terms & expressions, related queries, etc. In other words, relational terms that theme and frame the key concept, not targeting/singling out a keyword. Think about things like “cold”, “sweet”, “hot fudge”, “marshmallow cream”, “nuts”, “caramel”, “Bryers”, and “freezer section” when supporting the concept of “tasty ice cream”.
Trust Building through Co-citation
References from and with known authorities, directories, articles & posts. Who are you connected with; circles, connections & friends? If you were quoted by or referenced to by Bill Gates or Mark Zuckleburg when they were interviewed about the “future of computers and the social media”, chances are you, by association would instantly be considered an expert in the field. Hummingbird also gives you the same boost should your name be associate with other authorities in a blog post, article or social media quote.
Authorship & Structured Data
Consistent credit for works, posts & articles you create. And, delivering your content with proper identification, per Schema.org formatting make for ease of understanding by Google. Liken it to using good source citing and creating a bibliography for a research paper or book.
Repurpose Content for Universal Search
Simply put, take your older posts and rewrite them using updated knowledge, then turn them into pod casts, articles, e-books, videos, slide presentations, and other formats so that it can be picked up by others. You simply don’t know the delivery preference of your next follower.
‘Feeding The Bird’ Will Make Google’s Search Engine Happy
Design your web content marketing strategy to aim for the “sweet spot”.
Optimize for the future with Ray Kurzweil’s vision in mind. Know your audience and optimize for the “why’s” of search, not just the “what’s” when considering your target personas and developing your content strategies. Also make sure to deliver your information over various media outlets, with correct schema architecture.
A well engineered web marketing strategy will be to “hummingbird” as Jason Bourne was in his thriller; able to quickly adapt to his environments, driven to understand his purpose, and quick to establish himself as an indestructible “force” in spite of the opposition. Knowing who he was, who his enemies (competition) are, and employing the right communication channels, strategically timed/placed, positioned him for a dominant, overcoming & successful outcome.