This article was originally published on the Spectrum blog.
Google’s last algorithm update, affectionately known as Panda, stepped aside late last month.
On October 3, 2013 Google announced Hummingbird, which is being billed as the company’s largest algorithmic change in 12 years.
Google, believe it or not, has been around for 15 years.
What is Hummingbird?
Humming -- don't call it an "update" -- bird is Google’s new algorithm. Now Panda and Penguin? Those were updates. This is something bigger.
Hummingbird was created to listen, not just hear. The algorithm analyzes each search for more than just keywords. It strives to identify the searcher’s intent – technology that first came about through Knowledge Graph, the Google project that ultimately spawned Hummingbird.
What is Knowledge Graph?
Google was built and marketed around the fact that humans thrive on discovery, exploration and growth. We love that stuff. In mid-2012, this fundamental principle led to the announcement of Knowledge Graph, a project that was going to expose users to more relevant and significant information every time they searched.
Knowledge Graph transformed Google from a search engine into a 'knowledge engine', allowing searchers to explore parallel topics relating to any single person, place or thing Google had information on.
For example, search Leonardo da Vinci, and you’ll be given the chance to learn about a multiplicity of other Renaissance figures (see below).
This function is a product of Knowledge Graph.
Knowledge Graph seems to understand searchers, not just the keywords they type. That’s what makes it so groundbreaking. That’s what makes it cool.
It (somehow) grips the concept that everything is connected, and in that way is able to understand what people are interested in based on their searches. Similar to a human, it understands intent...
Why is 'intent' so important nowadays?
The search landscape is changing. People no longer exclusively use Google behind a desk (or even while seated, for that matter).
Thanks to awesomeness like Voice Search, people can execute search queries on their tablets and smart phones. And they do. So much so, in fact, that the smart people at Morgan Stanley predict mobile will exceed desktop usage by 2015.
As it turns out, spoken queries come out differently than typed ones do – very differently. Spoken queries are longer and typically contain fewer keywords. And if this is to be the norm going forward, an algorithm that understands intent is critical to Google’s effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term sustainability.
Google's complete embrace of mobile technology should also be a glaring sign to business owners everywhere: make your site mobile-friendly. Implement responsive web design. It's very possible that your website won't last without it.
How will all this impact SEO?
You did SEO the right way. You worked hard and followed the rules. So now that Hummingbird is calling the shots, will all your SEO diligence and persistence go to waste. Is your website going to be obsolete?
Definitely not. Google implemented Hummingbird to adjust to 'on-the-go' queries, not to reinvent the wheel. So don't sweat it, Jack.
If your Internet marketing is based on honest, white hat techniques, your website will remain efficient and productive. It’s been a month since Hummingbird's announcement and Google still rewards great content, quality blog posts, anchor text and title tags.
So keep doing what you're doing, or let the good folks at Spectrum do it for you! Click HERE for a quick tour.