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Google Launches New Algorithm: Hummingbird

If you’re a geek like us, then chances are you’ve heard the news: Google deployed a new algorithm last month, and this one is truly different from all that came before. But the new formula, known as Hummingbird, has not sent SEO agencies running for the hills — and it has not dramatically affected PageRank for most sites.

In fact, for many sites we think it will make long-tail SEO more important than ever. Here’s why.

Paving the Way for Artificial Intelligence

Hummingbird has not assigned any new penalties to SEO practices, nor has it changed the value of keyword optimization. Instead, it focuses on enabling searchers to use more natural search terms and still get spot-on results.

For example, if you search for “where can i get a hamburger” on Bing, as of press time the top results include the Wikipedia “hamburger” page, a video of a movie quote, and a forum thread about hamburger stands in Mobile, Ala. Not very useful unless you live in Alabama.

But Google’s new search algorithm understands that you personally want a hamburger wherever you are right now. The top two results are for services that will deliver a hamburger directly to you, followed of course by the movie quote.

This is technology that Google first tested out in its Knowledge Graph, which is designed to understand relationships between concepts rather than only scrutinizing keywords, links and social cues. In fact, if you then search “can i get it vegan” Google will reason that you mean you want a vegan hamburger — it understands “it” just like we do in a natural conversation.

Long term, the goal is to make it possible to search by simply asking normal questions (“Google, how far it is to Chicago? How much will gas cost?”) and cut out typing in search strings altogether.

Is SEO Safe?

Of course, changes this deep raise alarms for many business owners. How well will your keyword-optimized and strongly back-linked website fare if no one’s searching for keywords?

The answer is very well. Google rolled out Hummingbird without telling anyone and used it for 30 days. And what happened? Nothing. Businesses didn’t see their traffic decline and PageRanks held steady. During those 30 days, Google says 90 percent of searches were affected by Hummingbird, yet there was no change in SEO effectiveness.

Hummingbird is the “good” kind of change: the kind that makes it easier for searchers, without making it harder for businesses. Even better, by now you should already be focusing on quality of content so that people will naturally link or share your work, and that will help you perform even better as search engines value relationships and context as much as keywords.

If you want help keeping your website on track, try out a free half-hour consultation with EverSpark today.