Changes In Google Hummingbird

Our team tries to alternate each week for this column, but I was asked to write two weeks in a row because of an important change in Google's search algorithm this month. The new search algorithm is called Hummingbird, and so far the changes have been rolled out slowly to the public. In the coming weeks, however, everyone will have an altered search, and brands and businesses need to know how that is going to affect them.

According to a recent Wired.com article, the upgrade to Google's search algorithm will affect 90% of all searches, but most users will notice no visible changes in format and graphics. It's the 'back end' of the service that will change- the software and the programming language. The changes have been implemented for some users for over a month, but barely anyone noticed -- that's what Google wants, they are trying to make the change seamless. Businesses who focus on marketing content will see changes though, and big ones. Gone are the days of Web 2.0, where sharing made every piece of viral content relevant and evident. Web 3.0 has arrived, and its zeitgeist is content creation and originality - popularity factors in, but not as much as novelty.

 

In addition to a renewed focus on original content, Google's new Hummingbird algorithm has also greatly enhanced the search engines' ability to suss out meaning from multiple search terms and whole sentences, similar to the now defunct AskJeeves. This new functionality turns Google's search platform in to a more robust system, and allows users to search more naturally for information. It's not exactly the computer from Star Trek, but it's moving in that direction - you can already search by voice on Google.com and through mobile apps.

The Google of quarter 3 of 2013 is leaps and bounds more functional than its predecessors, but it’s becoming harder and harder to use competitive marketing techniques (such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Keyword Analysis) to manipulate the system and enhance a business or brands ranking. Being crafty is not going to do much for you these days, you have to be relevant and useful -- and you have to be inherently relevant and useful, not just because of your clever scheming or careful planning. That change is very useful to the average individual user, but for businesses and marketing people especially, the new day is filled with confusion and a bit worrisome.

If one can't use technological shortcuts to 'game the system', one is left with only creativity, networking, and luck for their marketing purposes -- Google has flattened the world of content marketing and forced businesses to be competitive based on merit again, not based on loop holes and technological expertise. It might scare some, but I'm hopeful this change will force marketers and creative teams to focus on the content, rather than its distribution -- that means better ads, offers/deals, content, and businesses (i.e. everyone wins!)