Whenever a SEO hears the words “Google” and “Update”, or any combination of the two, the reaction you normally hear is one you might expect if you told them the world is about to end. There might be an audible gasp, a slight sickening of the features, or even some cold sweating, and it all might seem a little bit ridiculous. But, with the sting of Panda and Penguin still apparent and the lack of trust we’ve been able to recover since said updates first rolled out, it can be a bit difficult to not have that reaction.
Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that the new Hummingbird update, which was announced on September 26th by Google but has been in effect for at least 2 months, is not anything you should have to worry about.
“But wait”, you might exclaim, “a Google update that doesn’t hurt my rankings? Say it isn’t so!” Well, vocal reader, it is, and you’re just going to have to deal with that. Here’s what you can expect from Google Hummingbird, and the reasons why you need to stop worrying right now.
At its core, Google Hummingbird is an algorithm update—read here, complete upheaval and replacement—that, according to Google, should help return better results. It comes with a few new features, helping the Google search algorithm deal with more “conversational” queries, while giving the searcher more immediate access to results. In other words, if you ask Google a question, it will deal with said question a little bit more efficiently now (i.e. if you ask “what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow”, you’ll get an answer to that question).
It is also able to “pay attention” to the entire query, and the meaning of said query, instead of solely to the words within. Other than that, Google rebuilt the algorithm to make it quicker, so you get to your results faster than ever before!
Now, though this update sounds scary—after all, when you read “complete upheaval and replacement”, it’s pretty easy to get scared—it really isn’t that terrifying. Although Hummingbird replaced the old algorithm completely, it’s still using the parts that SEOs need to pay attention to—i.e. high-quality links, content, etc.—in the exact same way. These signals are just as important as they were before the update, and that isn’t changing.
This also doesn’t result in a change to the layout of Google’s results, adding up to one simple conclusion: your site shouldn’t lose much, if any, traffic from Google. Just think about it this way; Hummingbird has been in effect for over 2 months now. If you haven’t noticed any significant traffic changes yet, then you haven’t been affected, and you shouldn’t have been.
In the end, remember that Hummingbird is only a change in how Google deals with the queries it handles on a daily basis and strives to better identify intent for any type of query. Your SEO work has not been for naught, and you shouldn’t be hurt by the changes that were previously implemented.
Unlike the Panda and Penguin updates, both of which altered the “signals” Google uses to push sites up or down in the rankings (check out this page for a complete explanation of Google’s algorithm), Hummingbird really is only making things easier and better for the user.
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