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Do you find it easier to find what you’re looking for on Google these days? Or is it more difficult than ever? Webmasters, did you have your world rocked towards the end of August in terms of website traffic, or did you notice a nice boost? On or around August 21, 2013, Google “switched out the engine” in its search engine car. By many accounts, the Hummingbird algorithm update was the largest for Google since 2001. Learn what changed, and what it means for your business…
What is a Google Algorithm Update?
Google algorithm updates are released regularly, and given code names such as Panda, Penguin, and now, Hummingbird. The code names usually have something to do with the nature of the algorithm itself. The Caffeine update from June 2010, for example, not only made Google’s search infrastructure faster and more efficient, but supposedly rewarded web pages that loaded quicker. Algorithm updates change the way the Google search engine displays results for a given search query. Every time an update is released, you will see different results for your query, supposedly providing a better user experience. At the same time, website owners often fret over lost traffic following an “algorithm shake-up.”
How Big of an Update Is Hummingbird?
The Google Hummingbird update (named Hummingbird because it is supposed to be “precise and fast”), was quietly released on or around August 21st, 2013. Google didn’t actually officially announce the update until a month later. And by official, we mean they made the announcement with a select few at the garage where Google was born during its 15th birthday celebration. The cause for celebration? Hummingbird was, according to a Google search engineer, the largest rewrite of Google’s algorithm in the past decade. Typically, an algorithm update will affect 10% or less of all search queries (ie. affecting the results you see when you search Google). The Hummingbird update, however, affected over 90% of all search queries.
What Exactly did Hummingbird Change?
What kind of improvements does Hummingbird offer? It tries to address “conversational search,” particularly searches carried out by voice. For example, when you search Google using the microphone on your smartphone with queries such as “What’s the best Thai restaurant near me?” Hummingbird takes into account individual words, as well as their context. For webmasters and marketers alike, this means the old practice of using a particular sequence of keywords to optimize a page might not be as effective as it used to be. Hummingbird takes into account the overall context of the page more in relation to a search query, which can include synonyms, similar meanings, domain authority, related phrases, and more. Hummingbird is another step closer for semantic search, targeting what people are actually searching for, as it tries to find the meaning behind the words.