What’s an algorithm?
What is a search algorithm, you ask? (Don’t worry; a lot of people are asking the same question.) When someone conducts a Google search, Google must weave its way through the seemingly infinite numbers of webpages to find the information someone is searching for. The formula used by Google to bring this to fruition is the search algorithm.
Does Google Hummingbird change things for me?
Though Hummingbird went live in August, Google didn’t actually tell anyone for about a month. They believe the algorithm was appropriately named; just think about the speed and precision these birds possess when in motion. The primary function of the Hummingbird algorithm is to give Google the better understand what someone is searching for. Hummingbird primarily allows Google to show the same search results for synonyms. This allows a webpage to rank for lots of similar searches (synonyms). However, this is much easier said than done. While two words may be synonyms in English, they could be completely unrelated in another language; and Hummingbird seems to be able to help differentiate and zero in on the topic for which the person is searching.
Hummingbird is also more adept at handling the “conversational” search than the previous algorithm used by Google. When someone does a spoken search (example: into a Smart phone), they might use a complete sentence “What is the closest Italian restaurant to my place of business?” Other search engines would focus on what it deemed the most important words, but Hummingbird is able to focus in on the actual meaning of the words as a whole. These factors allow for a more precise search – with the pages matching the meaning of the search instead of matching a few words found within it.
The best way to explain the changes is through the use of an automobile analogy. In much the same way a car gets a new engine or chassis every few years to freshen and upgrade things, Google makes similar changes to its search algorithm. Some of its parts are completely new, while others receive slight tweaks.
The main websites that experienced a drop in traffic from the Hummingbird update were low-quality sites that only focused on a few lengthy keywords (known as long tail keywords). Now after the Hummingbird update, when someone searches for a lengthy keyword phrase, Google can better understand what the person is actually searching for, and deliver more relevant, higher quality results to the user.