IRVINE, CA, Oct. 14, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Any time Google fiddles with its search algorithm it seems that visits to the ER for heart palpitations increase. Of course, no one blames webmasters, site owners, and businesses for putting so much stock into Google. The company does, after all, control two-thirds of Internet searches in the U.S. and even more in Europe. Maintaining dominance in the search business means understanding how users search and then changing algorithms to get them the content they want.  The last time Google changed it search algorithm, in an update called Caffeine, some sites saw their rankings change dramatically while others saw little or no change. With the new, even larger update now out, questions abound about how the change will affect ranks and how websites can be adapted to take advantage of the tweaks.

In recent years, two things have changed dramatically in the world of search. First, there has been a shift away from traditional Boolean searches such as "Google and Hummingbird" toward full sentence searches like "How does Google Hummingbird Affect Website Ranking?" Second there has been a shift from desktop and laptop browsers to mobile devices. This change has helped to fuel the shift toward full sentence searches, as people use voice recognition more frequently. The change is also critical from the standpoint that people now expect location-based services and other such niceties.

According to Google, the one thing that will not change with Hummingbird is the value of quality content. Sites still need to have original, high-quality substance if they wish to remain relevant. The old motto stating that "content is king" is as true as ever. In addition, authority and reputation, both of which rely heavily on links, back links, and link quality, are still as important as well. In other words, the same signals that earned a site a high page rank in the past will earn it a high page rank with Hummingbird. That being said, Google has announced that the new algorithm is the biggest change in 12 years. For a company that is 15 years old, that has to mean something, right? The really important news is not about the changes that Hummingbird brings, it is about the additions Hummingbird makes.

Addition One

The first big addition is in how keywords are handled. Google is trying to become less dependent on simple keyword matching and is more interested in context and how it affects the meaning of keywords. This interest is a result of a change in the way people search. They aren't using keywords so much anymore. They are using full sentences. Search algorithms must now determine how individual words fit into the larger structure of the sentence. Take, for instance, a search phrase like "Where is the nearest coffee shop?" Google can't rely on the keyword coffee to construct a search. It must recognize that the person wants to find an actual coffee shop. Returning the corporate website for Starbucks might be useless in this particular search. The algorithm needs to understand what the term coffee shop means and one way it does this is by relying on synonym identification.

Google has filed a patent for synonym identification based on co-occurring terms. Google will now use the context of a search (how the words in a sentence work together to create a greater meaning) as a method for replacing less specific keywords with more relevant keywords. In the search above, Google may instead return results for cafés rather than returning results for shops because it recognizes the context of the search. The whole point is to make searches more specific and more personalized.

Unfortunately, there may not be much that publishers can do to accommodate this change to the Google search algorithm. One thing that will certainly help is specific content. Content that includes the term café, instead of coffee place, is going to fare much better. Meta tags should also be updated to be as specific as possible. Finally, if anything can be included in HTML tags to improve specificity, it should be done.

Addition Two

Google has noted that many full sentence searches are entered in the form of a question. Many searches now included clauses like how can and how do. Google is modifying its algorithm to not just help people find content, but to help them find content that answers specific questions. In other words, Google is looking to be as helpful as possible and to avoid overwhelming it users with too much irrelevant information.

If publishers want to take advantage of this particular addition, they will need to change the way that they present information so that it answers specific questions. The best approach to carrying out this objective is to determine what questions a site already answers. Then, title and other high-impact aspects of a piece of content should be converted into questions that start with phrases like "how do," "how can," "where is," and so forth.

One way to find out how well a site is designed to present information in a question and answer format is to use a Google search tool called allintitle. In the search bar, type something like allintitle:"how can" This will search the site for those words. If they don't exist, the browser will return a No results found message indicating that it may be a good idea to make at least a few changes.

It is important not to overuse the simple question and simple response format, however, because Google is now using dwelling time to determine the quality of a website. How long a person remains on a page will now incorporated into the algorithm for determining how relevant that page is. If a site presents information in too many little chunks, the result may be a low dwell time.

Addition Three

This is less of an addition and more just the progression of Google from a simple search company into a web services company that offers diverse, complex products. You may have heard this saying before, but it bears repeating: Google loves Google. In other words, if you can tie your content back to Google, such as by embedding a YouTube video into a webpage, adding Google+ links, linking to a Hangout, or otherwise adding a Google product reference to your page, it will pay dividends. In other words, Google is as much king as content is king.


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