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Righting the Rule Book: The Hummingbird Algorithm

Did you know a hummingbird can flap its wings over 200 times per second? That’s huge! And so is the Hummingbird Google update, the biggest since 2001 in fact with huge parts of the Google algorithm being completely re-written. Even though the impact on search didn’t appear to be as big as Panda and Penguin – it was, even the BBC reported on it.

Award winning agency iCrossing (with possibly the most impressive client list I’ve ever seen) have composed a brilliant document as a result of their research into Hummingbird (available here). It talks in detail about the updates, and the way search is headed.

What The Future Holds
The way the future looks is worlds away from national rankings and even rankings in general. Have you ever seen how Google displays the answer to a question? If you plug in “How many pounds in a stone?” for example, the below comes up:


The research seems to suggest that Google wants more of the same, answering our questions for us, and it’s no real secret that in an ideal world the search engine would keep every user onsite and not syphon them off to an external site at all! Hummingbird cleverly detects the intent behind queries, and looks to answer them with popular, trusted and up-to-date resources.

How A Typical Search Query Will Work
In time – this has started to happen already – all search results will be personalised, and local will be incorporated into everything. Plugging in “physiotherapy clinic” for example will automatically pool clinics either in the area you specify or in the area you’re in when conducting the search query (mobile traffic at 30% in 2013 anyone???), then the algorithm will take a look at reviews. The detection for fake reviews is pretty advanced now, so genuinely getting reviews on your maps listing will be important (Trip Advisor have some great free widgets available to install review pages on to your website). Then, the good old link graph will come into play…along with the social graph. Trending topics along with authorship, trust and user behaviour metrics onsite will also play a part. In order to rank for a keyword, you won’t even need to have it on a page.

It all actually sounds pretty good, and very, very genuine.

Where Are We Now?
BUT we’re not there yet. For the here and now, as we all know, content plays a massive part – but base it on things that are relevant and newsworthy (using trending topics on Twitter where possible is a good idea). Onsite optimisation is important to focus on now too, as is having content available on a whole range of topics. Publishing content not centred around key phrases or even keyword focused will please the Hummingbird algorithms. As for links – we still need to get em’, but good ones, the impossible ones…unfortunately! PR-type activity will stand you in good stead.

At my agency 2013 was a year of massive change with strategies being completely re-designed mid-year. Already, into month 2 of 2014, this looks like it could be the case again. Enjoy being kept on your toes? We’ll be an industry full of ballerinas before we know it.

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