Today is the 15th anniversary of the day Google was founded. To those of us in the industry, this is a pretty major milestone.
In typical Google fashion, they threw a shindig at the house where the company first started in the Bay area. Many media and industry pundits were in attendance, and it sounds like a very cool event.
Just after confirming that they have moved all of their searches to Secure Search, meaning all organic traffic from Google will now show up in your analytics package as originating from the [not provided] keyword, they decided to double up on surprises.
Enter the Hummingbird Update
The presentation had several speakers and topics, including a full review of the company’s history. Later during the event, Google SVP of Search Amit Singhal took the stage to talk about the new things they are doing today and tomorrow.
During his speech, he announced that Google has rolled out the biggest update to their algorithm since Caffeine hit in 2010. They are calling this modification the Hummingbird Update.
What The Heck Is The Hummingbird Update?
It is still too early to draw final conclusions, but the Hummingbird Update is a significant upgrade to how Google processes and analyzes more complex queries, such as freeform questions that require context to answer. The primary thing to keep in mind is that it is a change meant to improve matching for relevance, whereas Caffeine was aimed at crawling and indexing.
Here is the excerpt from the Q&A portion of the event, as documented on Forbes.com:
Q: How big a change is Hummingbird? Singhal says it’s as big as the change to the last algorithm, known as Caffeine. It happened about a month ago.
Q: How specifically is Hummingbird better: Singhal says it’s essentially to better answer the much more complex queries people are making. It impacts all kinds of queries, but far more effective on long, complex questions that we’re getting many more of now.
Q: Examples? Hard to be specific, but essentially, with more complex queries, the algorithm can better understand concepts vs. words as well as relationships between concepts.
Q: How is this different in nature from Caffeine? This is clearly more focused on ranking sites better for relevance, while Caffeine was more focused on better indexing and crawling of sites.
How Will Hummingbird Affect Search Visibility?
The Google team was forthcoming with information about how broad this update is – it will impact up to 90% of SERPs! That’s very wide-reaching without question.
Since this update is meant to rank content better with respect to relevance, and to match to a much broader population of queries, we are optimistic that it will improve the quality of the SERPs. That said, the potential impact to long-tail keyword optimization cannot be underemphasized. If they are better at matching long and complex queries, context is poised to supersede simple exact match long-tail targeting.
Coupled with the new lack of visibility into keywords (Secure Search), we conclude that Google is finally forcing our hands with the move to semantic search and SERPs based on user intent as opposed to keyword matching overall.
Bottom Line: Companies who understand and take advantage of content marketing, especially those that include authorship markup and other semantic markup, are already ahead of the game in the Hummingbird era. If you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to take action and catch up to the rest of the market.
This is obviously very new information, and much more analysis will be coming out in the days ahead. Feel free to add comments below and share links if you find additional nuggets that our audience would like to see. Or even include your own opinions. This is a topic that we are both excited and cautious about, so we’d love to hear how you feel about it as well.