Last year when Google released its Penguin update, there were major waves felt throughout the webmaster community. Little would you have known Penguin only impacted a whopping 3% of Google searches. More surprising though is the fact that Google released a completely new algorithm at the end of the September and compared to Panda, not even a peep was made. The new algorithm, called Hummingbird, has impacted a 90% of searches and is Google’s most significant update in 12 years.
So what is Hummingbird? It represents Google’s attempt to best answer a searchers question and predict their search intent. It’s Google looking at syntax and word order as opposed to individual keywords to best answer their question. After all, searches aren’t necessarily always in the form of a question, but they almost always represent a question. You don’t search “where can I find a good Chinese restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI”. You search “chinese food”.
Now my personal view of Hummingbird is positive because it gives websites with great content but not a ton of marketing resources to rank higher for long-tail keywords because Google is now concerned with intent. A massive retailer may rank highly for “sweatshirt”, but Hummingbird opens up opportunities for other publishers when someone searches “red striped sweatshirt” because Google is looking at the phrase as a whole, not just individual keywords. It means we have to be more vigilant as marketers than ever researching long-tailed search terms to optimize our sites for. Hummingbird levels the playing field if we don’t rank well for a single, particularly competitive keyword.
Now I do in general feel Hummingbird is a positive update, but there is a drawback for some sites that do naturally answer question. With Google wanting to answer user questions quickly, you may have noticed Google is actually answering these questions themselves (if you haven’t noticed search Google for “Ben Franklin’s birthday”).
With Google answering search queries themselves and their concern with having search results answer questions quickly, Google Authorship is more important than ever. This is especially true if you have a site that naturally answers people’s questions. Google Authorship will really personalize your search results and help make your site stick out in the organic listings.