Google’s Hummingbird Update Takes Flight

Google marked its 15th anniversary by announcing one of the biggest algorithm updates the tech giant has made in years. Named Hummingbird, the new search algorithm is designed to be more precise and to provide users with faster query results. It is also based more on semantic search, focusing on user intent versus individual search terms. And unlike Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, Hummingbird is said to be a complete rewrite of the tech giant’s search algorithms. It also expands Google’s use of the Knowledge Graph.

Before, Google used keywords and links to determine what to show in its search result pages. But with the Hummingbird update, the search engine now has the capability to map the relationship between many things and use that ability to answer more complex search queries and those that don’t necessarily have straightforward answers.

For example, in the search query “apple vs kiwi,” Google would have only shown web pages that have the exact phrases before. With the implementation of the Hummingbird update, however, the search engine will show a graph listing the similarities and differences between the two fruits on the search results page, in addition to links to the web pages that show information that are relevant to the topic.

The latest update also allows Google to string a succession of related queries together. This basically means that the search engine understands when a follow-up search refers to a query that a user has made earlier. For example, if a user asks Google to show pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then ask how tall it is, the search engine will know that the user is referring to the Leaning Tower of Pisa instead of treating it as a separate search query.

David Amerland, a search engine expert and author of “Google Semantic Search,” said the Hummingbird update is actually good for SEO practices. According to him, Google’s latest move “opens the horizon for companies and webmasters considerably.” Christy Belden, the vice president of marketing and media at LEAP, shares the same sentiment. She said that the update made a lot of sense, especially now that more users are making search queries through voice and mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Trond Lyngbo, a senior strategist and partner at Metronet in Norway, offered some simple tips on how online business owners and SEO practitioners can take advantage of Google’s Hummingbird update. He said that businesses must understand how the Knowledge Graph works and adapt to semantic search. And instead of relying on keywords alone, he added that websites and businesses should identify the intent, needs, and problems of their prospects and provide them with solutions and answers accordingly.

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