3 Ways Content Will Be Affected by Google’s Latest Hummingbird Update

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Google officially announced the latest, and biggest, algorithm update to hit your very favorite search engine since 2010’s Caffeine update. You could call it another search results overhaul but, truthfully, it’s just a small part of an overall evolution to bring better information to consumers for the moments that matter.

Google Hummingbird

Google is making an effort to practice what they preach in a big way. Have you seen their commercials? It’s clear that Google has its sights set on emerging as the ultimate source of information. Want an old school SAT analogy to help you out? Google is to information as Apple is to devices. This new update is a clear indicator that Google is making bold moves to become an increasingly integral part of your life, not only supplying information you want, but intelligence you didn’t even know you needed.

So what does this all mean for marketers? Content producers, listen up; this one’s for you.

Content Needs to Satisfy Intent

About two years ago, we saw a shift in search from “dumb” keyword optimization to a more intent-based channel where search engines endeavored to “best guess” a search user’s intent, matching it to relevant content that (hopefully) best answered a user’s query.

More recently, “context” has entered search strategy lexicon, which accounts for more personalized search tactics based on location, platform, device and/or hyper local factors.

With Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update, launched last month, and officially announced today, Google is further underscoring the importance of user intent over pure keyword based interpretation. This new update now better acknowledges context, timeliness, conversational search location cues, Knowledge Graph data and understanding of complex queries.

Content Needs to Be Rich

So, how do marketers focus their own content to satisfy more complex user intent? Content needs to be deep, and rich, to be deemed the most relevant piece of content for any given query. Sites that are currently developing rich content that seek to answer more comprehensive questions, rather than keywords or phrases, will increase their chances of ranking well with the new update. However, while sites need to rely heavily on rich content, they also need to maintain well-designed sites, which make it easier for Google spiders to find that great content.

Authorship Matters

Because content seems to be the biggest emphasis for this update, it also likely means that authorship will become an even more important factor in optimization. It’s interesting that this update is coming right on the heels of several recent notable changes. The first being the complete integration of secure search, which eliminated keyword data from analytics, and the second being Google+ rolling out a change to authorship, which will make it easier on Google to attribute content back to the author. So, while you start thinking about your content program, and whether or not it supports the new algorithm update, don’t forget to take authority into account. Make sure profiles are created, updated, and attributed for all pieces of content.

What does the future hold?

It’s hard to predict exactly what the future will entail, because Google is predictably unpredictable, but it’s safe to say that this update is a clear move towards a more Semantic Web, which aims at getting a better understanding of “aboutness” – not just from markup of entities, but in the ability to extract sentiment from the structure of a sentence – so there’s probably more coming. Perhaps the answer is in a more “implicit” search.

Even if Hummingbird does fundamentally change search in the long term, its introduction went by relatively un-noticed as little more than a slight improvement in search results. And, though Google notes that the update covers about 90% of search queries worldwide, it will feel incremental from a user perspective. Marketers, however, should be cautious because the update brings a greater implication from both an operational and technical standpoint. Google continues to push towards a world where “Content is King,” and understanding user search intent is the end goal. And, maybe one day they just may be able to answer our questions before we even ask them.


Image Credit NYTimes

Rick Egan

Rick Egan

Digital marketer focused on the evolution of ad programs from offline to online across the multi-device world. Current gig, leading cross functional engagements for The... Read Full Bio
Rick Egan
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  • Sohil Memon

    I hope this is an Awesome update because from morning, my search views from Google are increasing and this time Google gonna understand the difference between real& rich content and spamming 😀 Feeling Great!

  • Ansh

    But I don’t think there is much need to worry about it?

  • Phil Madrigal

    I can understand google improving there algorithms and rewarding deeper content with intent this week I read the article of certain SEO company’s that were faking reviews and uping there ranking does google even penialize these company’s for doing that they should at least reward the smaller company’s that do the right thing and follow the rules reguarding SEO . Just with these constant changes sometimes seems pointless that google even cares that there are some companies that believe in hard work and follow the rules they themselves keep setting year to year just seems pointless . Like to hear any comments from anyone on this subject for clarity . Phil Madrigal


    Hummingbird makes results more useful and relevant, especially when you ask Google long, complex questions.Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account ,so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.

  • adeel

    SEO is getting harder. we need to just optimize our valuable informative title for user prospective. again we can say “short anchor text is totally die it is replace by co citation”, we need to use descriptive anchor text which shows user behavior,

  • Knut

    Hi, thanks for this great post. So this update rolled out in october? Do You know when ecactly?

    • Peter

      The update rolled out in August, not october..

  • Adam Taylor

    Finally a bird that can fly! I’m excited to see how the ranks of my competitors change.

  • GLoen

    Search Update: hoping this improves my site ranking…

  • Arpit Kothari

    Thanks for this informative information, we like it, but i have one question, what is the effect on search result and on website ?


  • Duy Do Van

    This is very helpful information Thank a lot

  • John cruz

    SEO is becoming more complicated day by bay. So we need to just concentrate on our content which should be comparative and informative. Thanks for sharing this information .

  • Peter

    Hey, what is the change of the autorship that you mentioned ? Did I miss something? Thanks!

  • Matchbox India

    SEO is getting harder. thanks for this great post
    Hummingbird makes results more useful and relevant, especially when you ask Google long, complex questions. 😉

  • Rahul Sethi

    What about the blogs with keyword stuffing and spam….

  • Lyman (Not Provided)

    Get ready for the keyword bashing to begin. Every SEO wannabe yuppy will be spouting more and more how keyword data is useless.

  • Krasen

    lol.. nice final words

  • SEO DC

    content and authorship matters!!! Saw a big boost in rankings for one of our sites on the 26th after creating some killer content, had the authorship for a while.

  • Reginald

    Hi Rick,

    Well written indeed. For me, the update could easily mean bye bye niche websites and hello content. Content is king but it has to be really good. I think you nailed it…big time! Thanks for sharing this and have a great week ahead.


  • Rick skycap knowledge Henderson

    With this new algorithm is it possible that new authors are better off posting articles to their on website / blog with a Google+ than to use what is called an article farm?

  • Maria De Canio

    One of my blog got more traffic, and kill another blogs of mine….

  • suraj

    I know content plays vital role in website promotion but there are several spinning software that finally ruin the efforts of the writer….

    How about copying the content from Ezine articles and other article directories and spin them, make some corrections and post them as fresh content?

    This is the problem and most of the SEO agencies are doing this and getting best ranking because Google Finally check the number of indexed pages, links from different websites with fresh content…….

  • Barbara Varovsky

    Rich relevant content has always played an important role in determining site ranks. If you remember, Panda update was introduced to weed out spammy content site from SERP.

    As for this Hummingbird, it is about queries in the first turn. The updated empowered Google with capabilities to deliver more relevant results, answer searchers’ questions, provide analysis of search results in the Knowledge Graph, etc. I found a cool guide that explains how to deal with the new algo and how to make it work for you. If interested, you can check it here: http://www.link-assistant.com/news/google-hummingbird-update.html

  • Jonathan

    Hummingbird only accommodates different ways that users search on Google. It does not change the way users do their search. Most searches would still be very short and keyword heavy. So sure, go ahead and bend over backwards chasing after the longtail while I continue to go after the short and keyword-heavy searches which would account for maybe 90% of total searches made.

  • laura

    SEO is getting harder. thanks for this great post
    Hummingbird makes results more useful and relevant, especially when you ask Google long, complex questions. 😉