google hummingbird

What is Google Hummingbird and What Made it so Relevant?

A decade ago, it was relatively common to go online, type something into Google, and get some fairly random results. It was also possible to completely miss relevant material because you didn’t accurately determine what version of keywords an article was using. Both of these scenarios could easily result in frustration or a multi-hour treasure hunt. Google Hummingbird drastically reduced the frequency of these frustrating searches.

Google used to be all about matching keywords

One of the hardest things about early Google searches was that the algorithms primarily matched the text entered in a search box with words on the screen. In other words, the earlier algorithms determined whether or not a page matched the query almost exclusively based on a close match of keywords. Unfortunately, simply matching words on the screen meant that people would get a lot of irrelevant, sometimes spammy, content.

What was the purpose of the Google Hummingbird algorithm update?

google hummingbird

Image Source: QPH

When the Google Hummingbird update was originally released, it did not appear to make a lot of difference to SERP positions. However, the change implemented by Google Hummingbird was actually revolutionary. That’s because it was one of Google’s first major steps away from traditional keyword matching. With Hummingbird, the intent behind a particular search became important.

Let’s think of this on a practical level. It used to be that if you searched for a particular medication, you would primarily get a lot of spammy results offering to sell the medication. Frequently, the advertised sales would be illegal, such as prescription medicine without a prescription or medication being shipped directly from China. However, in the post-Hummingbird era, you will likely see a lot of health information sites and articles they have about the medication.

Naturally, you will still see some ads to sell the medication. But, these will frequently be under the Google shopping section or in the form of pay-per-click ads. On the other hand, if you search for “by medication cheap,” then you will see more commercial content.

What’s the difference? After the Hummingbird update, the Google algorithm could better interpret your query to determine what information you wanted. So, in our medication example, the searcher might be looking for general information about that medication. They may not be interested in buying it, whether online or at all. That’s because this person may simply be curious, or they might want to know about the med dictation for a spouse, a child, or an elderly adult.

Lessons learned from Google Hummingbird

The introduction of Google Hummingbird was revolutionary because it completely changed the typical approach to SEO. While keywords are still important and will always remain so, we must make sure that we choose keywords that are compatible with the material. And at the same time, to maximize our SERP positions, we want to ensure that when people find our content, it matches what they were looking for.

Fail in this goal, and you’ll have a hard time staying at the top of the SERPs.

Another important lesson is that we should always use keywords organically and naturally. Part of the innovation behind Google Hummingbird is that the machine is capable of interpreting natural language. Therefore, our article and landing page targets should match how a searcher would look for the information. Otherwise, we risk getting lost.

Finally, Google Hummingbird and its later cousin Google Bert work together to ensure that searchers get the best, most useful content possible. For this reason, we should never give in to the temptation to write that people really don’t want to read. Doing this is among the fastest ways to see your content get buried.

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No matter what industry you’re in, Google’s algorithm changes over time means that you need high-quality, up-to-date content that satisfies both humans and search engines. 

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