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Hummingbird Hype and the Google Algorithm

Oh the SEO world is abuzz with Hummingbird hype. Allegedly, Google has made a major, incredible, catastrophic, complete overhaul of their (magical) algorithm. Many are freaking out, quite a few are concerned, and of course every serious Google-watcher like myself must pay attention.

Google's Hummingbird Algorithm
We've been through this before. Sometimes the hype is understated, as when Penguin rolled out and at first it did not seem like a big deal. Now it's clear Penguin is a very big deal with many severe penalties for naughty link-building. Panda, in contrast, doesn't seem to be nearly the problem.

Hummingbird and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

Hummingbird seems to be mainly about latent semantic indexing, which is a fancy word for:

  • Google being smarter about what words go with what words, and thereby to infer meaning. So many words and phrases are ambiguous and only with "context" can a "machine" interpret what you truly mean.
  • Moving to a more Siri-like user experience. Allowing users to "talk" to their computers and get responses.
But keywords still drive queries - not at a Google level, but at a human level. If I ask you:

Do you know the best Pizza restaurant in Palo Alto?

The relevant words are: best, pizza, restaurant, Palo Alto.

No amount of Hummingbird technology can "change" the fact that speech queries are driven by keywords. At its best Hummingbird will be about inferences, such as:

Do you know a pizza restaurant?

With the inference being you want a) the best, b) someone near you, and c) I know you are in Palo Alto.

Is Hummingbird important? It's too early to tell. Can Google or Will Google change the fundamentals of human speech and queries? No: at best they are going to try to be more intelligent about adapting to the ambiguities of human speech, and better at inferring what a query means.

From the SEO perspective, it all still implies that we should:

  • Know our keywords.
  • Write strong keyword-heavy copy, that is good both for humans and for Google.
  • Build links, social mentions, and all that external stuff that confirms we are an "expert" on the topic.
Keep calm and carry on.


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