In the biggest overhauls of their search service since they implemented Caffeine in 2009, Google today brought attention to an aspect of their algorithm they call Hummingbird.
According to Greg Kumparak at Techcrunch this algorithm change affects 90% of searches and;
The main focus, and something that went repeated many a time, was that the new algorithm allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.
As noted above, the new algorithm affects nearly 90% of worldwide searches. As an SEO I can safely say this is one big algorithm change and interestingly enough it's release wasn't announced in the same way as previous updates. It was silently released behind the scenes about a month ago.
For a very in-depth take on the release of Google's Hummingbird algorithm, and about the special event that took place today where Google revealed it, follow this link for some live updates by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land where he was present and taking notes since the event started.
Hummingbird is all about meaning
Google has been working on increasing their ability to parse meaningful questions out of user queries. For instance if you're searching with a 'car' type query, it knows automobile, auto, 4-wheel drive, truck, and even vehicle names, are all related to your search. With this knowledge they can return better and more meaningful results to their users.
Hummingbird is also able to provide better and more accurate results based on your searched questions. If you've been paying attention to the search results over the past few weeks, you may have seen a better presentation of answers to your questions in the search results. I have.
Hummingbird is clearly a more sophisticated type of search algorithm than what we're used to. It's not as simple as crawling a webpage and basing a search result rank of documents on the text of a page. It finds meaning in a page and more accurately returns pages according to your search intent.
Could this be the death of intentional SEO?
We're hearing the news of this new search algorithm called Hummingbird but there's really no clue in sight on how to use the algorithm in your favour.
With Panda, we learned how to keep our websites in tip top condition from a quality perspective. With Penguin we learned to abide by Google's Webmaster guidelines and avoid black-hat tactics. With the Page Speed algorithm we learned to clean up our sites to ensure they load faster but with Hummingbird, for now all we know is that 90% of searches are affected and that Google can return more reliable and meaningful results based on long searches and questions.
Increase questions and answers in your documents
There is one aspect related to SEO that we can pick up with Hummingbird, and of which I've been doing for some time now; that is by answering questions in your documents.
For instance, if you sell cookies online, and have found that there are a lot of searches related to questions like “what are the tastiest cookies?”, publish content related to this query. Make sure the content does provide value to the reader and make sure your article is original.
Have your SEO or web developer add meaning code to your documents
With Hummingbird, Google is able to better derive meaning from the content in your documents. One way it does so is most likely through rich snippet code. There are many kinds of rich snippet code that can be used which helps the search engines know what your data is about.
For instance you can place your business address on your website and hope the search engines know that this specific content is your business address, or you can place rich snippet code around your business address text which will tell the search engines the nature of the content and whether it's an address or not.
Read more about rich snippet code here.
So what's the take home?
For now we can wait a few days and hope Google provides more answers (no pun intended) to questions that will be posed by SEOs across the world.
From a regular user's perspective, I'd like to say that I'm pleased with the announcement of Google's Hummingbird algorithm and can safely say I have seen a few differences over the past few weeks with respect to question/answer searches I've done. Good job Google!