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First, I better remind you (or explain to you) what an algorithm is because that has everything to do with the power Google has in our world.
An algorithm is defined as a procedure or formula for solving a problem. That’s the mathematical definition. When you’re talking about computers and the internet, an algorithm refers to a procedure that solves a recurrent problem. For example, like when you and 5,000 other people search for “truck tires” on Tuesday. Google and other search engines have built incredibly complex programs that search all the world’s accessible websites and select the most relevant (they hope) results and offer them to you. That automatic, machine-driven program is referred to as an algorithm.
Algorithms are constantly changing. Companies have been competing for more than a decade to offer the most valuable, relevant search results. While long ago, Yahoo!, Excite and AltaVista were popular search engines, they lost to Google. Let’s see how badly they lost.
This pie chart from Neil Patel at Quicksprout.com gives us instant insight into the dominating position Google holds in the business of providing search results. It shows how many of today’s searches are carried out by our top search engines.
Google obviously rules, followed by Bing, Yahoo, AOL and Ask.com. You’ll see that Alta Vista and Excite don’t even show up on this chart. They lost. Google won.
Some Businesses Live and Die by Google’s Updates
You can easily see from this chart that if a business doesn’t provide Google with the clues they need to select that company’s website for search results, their website may disappear right off the map. So there is an entire industry dedicated to tracking what Google has done, what it plans to do next, and how companies can maintain their search engine result standings. If a company’s site shows up on the first page of search results, that’s where they want it to stay.
So every time Google makes a major or even a minor change to their algorithm, there’s a lot of scrambling while people figure it out. Sometimes, Google has one of their tech staff (usually Matt Cutts) explain the change but sometimes, there’s nothing. A company that used to be in the first ten search results now appears on page ten. Effectively, they are dead in the water. There are companies that lost millions of dollars when Google changed their algorithm and suddenly their websites were nowhere to be found in the search results. To be fair, Google provides extensive training and informational videos and articles telling companies the right way to build their sites. I happen to know that one of these companies that got hit so hard built their site the fast and dirty way, not by building a quality site that served the customer.
The Hummingbird Update
Last August, there was yet another change to Google’s algorithm. And this time, there was no accompanying explanation. But plenty of people have analyzed the changes in results to determine what was modified.
Google is moving in the direction of more intuitive, intelligent relationships with its users. A year or so ago, Google began to be able to work off synonyms, not slavishly following the keywords in your search terms. For example, you could ask for “Birkenstock sandals” and Google now offers pages that sell other types of healthy, ergonomic shoes.
Now, Google is moving even further in this direction by trying to interpret what you are asking. If you search, “How many calories do eggs have?” and then moments later ask, “How much cholesterol do they have?”, Google will know you are still talking about eggs. Consider that Google is patiently trying to have a conversation with you. Voice searches (similar to Siri on the iPhone) are not far off. Google not only listens to your literal words, it also interprets your meaning and works from that.
This is the Hummingbird update. There are also features that make the search engine work better on mobile devices. There are more than 200 different factors Google looks at to determine what pages to offer you when you search for “Good restaurants in Tampa.”
So now, unless you’re a web development geek, you know more than most people around you about Hummingbird.
So What Does this Mean For You?
Basically, it means that your website should be fast and efficient. It should be provide excellent, complete information for a customer who might be looking for your product. Your products or services should be explained in detail and frequently asked questions should be answered in full on your site. Your images should be original whenever possible. All these factors would make your site appealing to a customer and Google is trying to stand in for that customer and provide him with your site when that’s really just what he is looking for.
We can help you analyze what your site might need to make it up to today’s standards. If it has been a couple of years since you did a major update, it’s a very rare website that would not need to be updated. Call us to find out how we can help.