Yesterday the news broke at a Google press event that the largest upgrade to its search algorithm since 2001, dubbed Hummingbird, had already rolled out last month. “Algorithm?” you ask. “Isn’t that the thing the determines how websites are ranked? And you say this is the biggest change in their algorithm in 12 years?! What about all my SEO work? Is it ruined? Do I have to change everything?” Rest easy, you don’t have to change anything about your SEO efforts, at least not if you’re already doing what you should have been doing all these years.
If you’re looking to get all the details on the Hummingbird update then head straight on over to Danny Sullivan’s Hummingbird FAQ at Search Engine Land or read the post by my fellow Forbes contributor Robert Hof. But if you just want to know what you need to do about Hummingbird, then I’ll save you the task of reading Sullivan or Hof’s posts (although I do highly encourage you read them, they’re both quite interesting) and cut to the chase. It comes near the end where Sullivan asks the question “Does this mean SEO is dead?” He answers:
No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.
Nothing has changed. If you have original, high-quality content, and you have high-quality and relevant websites linking to your own website, then your website is still going to rank well. If anything, your website’s rankings will improve just as they should have after the Penguin and Panda updates rolled out.
The key to making the right decisions about SEO is to understand where Google is going. Google’s goal is that when someone creates a new search, what Google shows that person is exactly what the person wants or needs. We’ve all had the experience of searching on Google and seeing websites come up that obviously aren’t what we want. We don’t even need to click on the link to figure that out, because what Google shows us is enough. When this happens to me I think “Good heavens, why in the world would Google think that’s what I wanted when I typed in those words?” Google wants to get to the point where I never think that again. To lose sight of this goal would be the death of Google. This is, in part, why Google employs a few thousand PhDs.
Many people have been frustrated by Panda and Penguin, and they’ll now see Hummingbird in a negative light. Don’t fall into that trap. If you’re the best at what you do, these updates Google has been rolling out are opportunities to separate yourself from your competition. They may have been engaging in spammy tactics to get good rankings, but if you’ve been focusing on creating content that provides real value to potential customers, their days are numbered. These changes will help you rise above, and the good news, as mentioned above, is if you’ve been doing the right things for your SEO you don’t need to change a thing.
Have you seen any impact to your website(s) as a result of the Hummingbird update? Do you see any details in the update you feel will give you an advantage?
Update: After contacting Google’s press department I was informed that Google has been running Hummingbird “for a few months,” not just since last month. The press department also reiterated their guidance for those doing SEO, “Our guidance to webmasters is the same as always — we encourage original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.”