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Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm: Facts & Tips

Google Hummingbird

Google’s been busy this month.  Not only did it remove most keywords from showing up in its Analytics platform but it also launched a major new algorithm code named “Hummingbird”.

My clients, past and present, will know that I have been warning about this for some time now, the idea that SEO is transforming, and that without a premeditated content strategy, your SEO efforts will one day be in vain.  This day has come..

What is Hummingbird?

Google’s new algorithm (in reference to a hummingbird being “precise and fast”) is especially designed to better handle complex long tail queries by better understanding user intent, rather than just the keywords being used.

This algorithm appears to be in direct reaction to the increased use of voice search especially on mobile devices where search engine users are asking more complex questions in a very specific location and context.

Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, here’s what Amit Singhal, SVP, Google Search said about it during an announcement at Google’s 15 year anniversary at Menlo Park (the Garage where Google was born):

We’ll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you. This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Hopefully, we’ll save you a few minutes of hassle each day. So keep asking Google tougher questions—it keeps us on our toes! After all, we’re just getting started.

What Does Hummingbird Do?

Google is getting better at using NLP (Natural Language Processing) to improve its results. Hummingbird uses many of Google’s traditional ranking rules but with a twist, it now factors the full meaning of the query, the entire sentence (or question) rather than just particular words in the query.  They are also getting better at factoring in semantics, their knowledge graph and user intent and social connections to return better results.

As an example, if a user searches for “where do I buy a… ” , in the past Google would return search results that focused on the word in your query. Hummingbird focuses on the meaning behind the words. For instance, it may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google and will understand that “place” means you’re looking for a brick-and-mortar store as opposed to an online shop.

How Do You Future-Proof  Against Hummingbird?

The best way to overcome any negative implications from Google’s latest Algorithm is to ensure that your content is answering your audience’s questions around your business.

The conversational types of questions can be be categorized as follow:

  • Informational:  How type phrases (think general Wikipedia type content)
  • Navigational: What type phrases (think branded content)
  • Transnational: Where type phrases (think buy keywords and location based content)

For example, if you sell furniture, you should be answering question such as “How do I seal wooden furniture” and even providing tips for furniture arrangement.  You should also cover language around your brand and where to buy (in case of bricks and mortar businesses)

Your keyword research should identify niches and topics for you.  Also read our guide for optimizing for the long tail.

It’s also wise to have an optimized local web presence (if applicable) as well as a mobile strategy and an overall optimized mobile web presence.

Link Building For Hummingbird

Think about your link building strategy and consider the value of co-citation i.e. your brand being mentioned within content mentioning other authorities (including your competitors).

Also think about variations in your anchor text including branded keywords and natural links such as “click here”s as well as the keywords and semantics surrounding your links.

If you have further questions about Google’s latest algorithm, please ask in the comments below.  

As for our client’s, we will be discussing this with you individually over the coming days…

About Omar Kattan
Omar is MD & Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.


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