Understanding searches and questions
Unlike Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird wasn’t introduced to target specific negative behaviors. Instead, Hummingbird changes how searches are organized and how Google approaches “semantic search.” The idea is as more people use mobile devices for browsing and searching, there has been a shift towards more voice-based searches. These are usually asked in the form of a command or question. Combined with Google’s knowledge graph and the Google Now mobile app, Hummingbird is just another tool for Google to better understand users’ more complex search queries.
The idea here is that people don’t just want to search for websites. Instead, they come to Google (or use Google Now) to get answers. In the past, these answers just happened to be on web pages. Now, Google has developed (and is continuing to develop) a web of knowledge connected by relevant associations. For example, searching for the Empire State Building will retrieve what information the knowledge graph has about the building’s height, history, architect, etc. This is shown on the search results page in a dedicated knowledge box, so you don’t have to click anywhere for that information. The data is cited, so you can easily continue reading on sites that Google has used to find the information (frequently Wikipedia but it can vary).
The Knowledge Graph can also do comparisons. Google used “butter vs olive oil” to demonstrate. This search will produce a knowledge box containing a nutritional comparison between the two. Similar boxes exist for comparing cities, foods, buildings, and a growing number of other categories.
The Knowledge Graph is not limited to providing answers. Google has also changed the way it displays maps, images, business listings, music, videos, and more in order to give users more of what they are searching for on the first page. It’s important to keep this in mind, because your organic listing is now competing with more than other websites. It now competes with whatever added SERP content Google chose to display for a given query.
How does this play into semantic search?
With Hummingbird, Google increased its ability to understand and provide answers for semantic searches. For example, asking Google “when is the next Boston Bruins game” will return a knowledge box containing the hockey team’s record, standing in its division, time and location of next game, TV broadcast details, and who they are playing. It also provides the option to view more information and the tile will expand showing scores for previous games.
The key with Hummingbird is it can understand searches as conceptual queries instead of strings of words. By understanding the conversational nature of the search, Hummingbird is able to better tell what you mean. People are going to search for the same information differently, so it’s important for the search engine to be able to understand the intent.
Long-tail and concept searches
As more adults do more browsing online, it will affect all searches. However, attorneys are in somewhat special position (not to say that other industries won’t benefit too). Searches for legal questions general use long-tail keywords. This means people aren’t usually searching for “Tucson attorney.” They are searching for “Tucson DUI attorney for underage driver” or the semantic query “find me a DUI attorney in Tucson who specializes in underage DUI.” Either way, Hummingbird is going to help Google idea the key concepts in that search, instead of focusing on only the individual words.
Attorneys can write with this in mind by focusing on articles or blog posts that answer specific questions. Instead of focusing on keywords that, on their own, don’t really mean much, provide answers to address these semantic searches. Knowledge graph isn’t likely to be answering these questions for you in the foreseeable future, so get in there and make your law firm’s website the answer.