So, Google recently announced Hummingbird, the biggest algorithm update (or engine upgrade, as some are saying) since Caffeine in 2010.
Officially, it’s supposed to affect 90% of all queries and improve the search experience for conversational queries, the phrases people use in real life and a majority of them, who perhaps don’t know that search engines mainly understand the queries by the keywords, use them on search engines as well.
Hummingbird has been in action since a month ago, when a sudden temperature spike was observed in MozCast. Interestingly, for a lot of mainstream keywords, I’ve noticed very unusual changes in the search results recently.
What I basically noticed:
- Sites with widespread content, irrespective of the quality, are now ranking really well.
- They are ranking without links.
- Authorship is playing a huge role.
Let’s take a look at an example site.
I came across a webmaster on Facebook yesterday who was uploading SERP pictures showing how well his site started performing on Google lately. I was familiar with his website before, and even though I wouldn’t call it crap, others might.
Let’s look at a sample keyword where the site ranks within the first page of Google.com (though it seems to be on a personalized SERP):
And here are a few other queries that the site ranks really well for:
About the site
- As you can easily figure out, the author picture is fake. It’s of a character of some video game.
- The site contains tons of posts written in very low quality English.
- The site is literally filled with advertisements. There are ads on the header, footer, sidebar, and even between post paragraphs.
- The site doesn’t resort to black hat methods. Its link profile is completely natural and not even that powerful.
This is not the only site that’s ranking. I’ve noticed that a particular type of sites started ranking well after the Hummingbird update.
- Sites that post content, no matter how unique or high quality, frequently.
- Authorship. As long as it’s working on the SERPs, you’re already having a huge advantage over sites that don’t have working authorship.
- Relatively less focus on the number of backlinks, if the links aren’t coming from TechCrunch, Mashable or Moz.
What Google still fails to do, like always
- Favouring sites with content that’s actually great.
- Understanding the difference between English and, as they say, R.I.P. English.
- Tracking webmasters who post content only to be able to show ads to their (organic) visitors.
- Giving other sections of its algorithms, the ones dedicated to identifying “great content”, noticeable importance.
It’s frustrating really, to see my more popular posts being given no damn by Google, and my authorship-equipped posts from my personal blog outranking the likes of Washington Post and Daily Mail for a few keywords.
So, right now, even after Hummingbird, it’s still a mess.
Overall, it’s very confusing, with Google giving suddenly giving more importance to backlinks, user satisfaction, and now this. And then there’s those theories suggesting that Google is doing it all to turn more people to AdWords, where you can expect more stable results. It’s hard to tell, really, with all the sudden influx of changes.