While the developers of Google’s Android mobile operating system name their new versions after whatever sweets they nibble on while coding (from Cupcake to KitKat), the guys responsible for the search algorithm apparently lead a healthier life and go to the zoo every now and then. We have recently seen Panda and Penguin coming out of their labs, and here is the latest update: Hummingbird.
Except it’s not just an update. While Panda and Penguin were additional codes to the existing Google algorithm, or an extra layer if you like, Hummingbird is a brand new algorithm itself. Hang on, you might say, does that mean we have to ditch our existing SEO methods? No, you don’t. You can safely keep doing whatever you have been doing to your website in terms of SEO, as long as it’s in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Instead of penalizing over-optimised websites as Panda did, the new Hummingbird algorithm concentrates on the user experience of the search process by making it more “conversational”, as Google officially states. What does that mean? Apparently, Google can now work out your intentions behind your search term based on your location, previous searches and other factors, and display the most relevant results quicker than before. In other words, you can ask Google a question and it will try to answer it.
Haven’t we seen this before? Those who used the internet in the previous century will remember AltaVista, the search engine that prompted you to do exactly this: ask a question. So the idea is nothing new, but the computational power and the algorithm behind it have had a decade and a half to get better.
Has Google got any better then? Of course it’s impossible to tell, as we can’t test the old algorithm anymore. Don’t be surprised however, if you start seeing results that somehow reflect your previous searches, online shopping habits or social networking activities. Until then, give it a try, and ask Google a question.