What is the Google hummingbird update

Oct 24

In recent weeks Google introduced another big update to their search engine, and yer ok there's Bing and Yahoo but come on lets face it, we all only actually care about our website's position in Google and so now you're all desperate to find out what the Google hummingbird update means for our website. The good news is that it's nowhere near as bad as the penguin update.

Now before you get all grumpy and frustrated that Google is just trying to thwart your careful SEO strategy you should keep in mind that next time you go to buy yourself a toaster or find a what the latest Google update is all about then these updates will actually help you. They are designed to get rid of the crap and just leave you with decent websites that answer your questions. Albeit somewhat broad and a bit slap-dash you could summaries the major Google updates (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) something like this:

  • PANDA - Stop building rubbish websites that have no decent content, are just full of keywords or links and no use to anyone and write something useful to people....and if you carry on we'll just remove you from our search engine (We all remember those awful link farms that just crowded the first page of Google)....Good content is king!
  • PENGUIN - You may have stopped using link farms but you're trying to trick us (Google) into thinking your website is great by putting links to your site all over the shop and stuffing your links with keywords....and frankly we've spotted that most of the sites that link to you have nothing to with the content of your site....and if you carry on we'll just remove you from our search engine.....Relevant content is king!
  • HUMMINGBIRD - People don't just think in keywords they think in sentences so when they ask us to search for something we're going to guess what they really mean, how best to help them and search around that.....Content worth reading is king!

....you see the trend! Hummingbird is much less about removing sites from the rankings and more about favouring people that write for people and not the search engine. In the past its been tempting to stuff content with and optimise for specific keywords, but actually that doesn't really mean your content has answer to someone's question and hummingbird about trying to catch this and serve the user with websites that are really about what they are searching for.

Realistically we all know we should be doing this and when people ask me for search engine advice I always say:

Treat Google like a someone who knows nothing about what you do or how you do it and is a bit slow on the uptake!

The principle here is that you don't just stuff your content with keywords and/or industry acronyms but that you actually think about what your write about and explain it carefully. If you write your content for people and not search engines.....but you're doing that already aren't you?....then Google will love you. Try to be sneaky and one day it'll bite you in the butt.

So what does all this Hummingbird stuff mean for your website in real life. The easiest way to look at this is with a of quick example:

  • If someone searches for "PHP programmer" its quite likely that really they wanting to hire or find a PHP programmer. In the good ole days you might have performed well if you had optimised hard just for "PHP programmer" but in the new "hummingbird" world you need to be thinking more about what your users really want optimising your site for what you deliver (and local is always good too) so"hire a PHP programmer in Northampton"  because the hummingbird update will cause sites that focus more in that direction to perform better than just sites that optimised for "PHP programmer"....in a way that's obvious its just Google slowly catches up with our slackness.

I think for me a great quote that summarises what Hummingbird brings is: 

Content for the sake of 'words on a page' doesn't have the base value it once had, Now, your content really has to answer something.

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