The Hummingbird Algorithm Struck on September 4, 2013

hummingbirdGoogle has been operating its Search process for some 15 years and you might imagine that justified a party. You would be right but apparently not everyone is celebrating. It’s all because of that Google menagerie. Pandas, Penguins … and now we have a hummingbird. The Google 15 year anniversary party took place in the garage where Larry Page and Sergey Brin got the whole thing rolling. The garage was owned by Susan Wojcicki and here you can see her and Amit Singhal  in front of the garage right before Google’s 15 years anniversary press event. google garage 15 year anniversaryDuring the event, Amit Singhal announced some new search updates. The latest algorithm update is called Hummingbird. It has been operative for much of September and affects 90% of searches.

What do we know about Hummingbird

Danny Sullivan has provided some FAQ about The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm  but the short answer is that we don’t know too much. Apparently, Google says the name signifies this update is “precise and fast.” David Harry has also mused on the implications of Hummingbird and suggests that the growth of mobile devices and Voice Search may be one factor in the development of Hummingbird and the downplaying of keywords.  However one of the SMM blogs was affected by Hummingbird and we can learn something from that. There is no obvious reason why this blog was the only one affected since the four others are somewhat similar. Google Webmaster Tools indicates no problems with this blog and there has been no attempt to generate backlinks from other websites in order to boost rankings in SERPs.

Google’s Search Algorithm Lurches Around Like A Drunken Sailor

The motivation to write this post arose from looking at Google Analytics results. In particular the image below shows the weekly visits from Organic Search for the Senior Health Memos blog. Suddenly in mid-July the number of visits jumped to a rate that was 2.5 times the rate just before this. Then early in September, the rate dropped back to its level before the jump. algorithm updates effectLooking on a daily basis at the visit results early in July, as shown below, the rate took a kick up on Monday July 15. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable confirmed this was a time of a new update, which represented a “Softer” Panda Algorithm. In fact the new higher rate had been seen several months before but there had been a very gradual decline since then, perhaps as thesuccessive Panda updates were tightening the screws. algorithm updates effect july 15If that new higher rate had only persisted … However looking on a daily basis at these Visit results from Organic Search for early September, we see a sudden drop on Wednesday September 4 that has persisted since then. This is shown in the image below. algorithm updates effect september 4This would seem to indicate that for a website hosted in Houston, Texas, the Hummingbird update kicked in on search results as of September 4. We are told that some elements of the Panda and Penguin updates still play a part in the Hummingbird update. In this case, it may be that Hummingbird has gone back to a less soft version of the Panda Algorithm, thus taking away the recent uptick in Visit numbers.

The Social Pain That Google Causes

Many people seem resigned to accept whatever Google chooses to do with its search algorithms. What was seen here for the Senior Health Memos blog could well be happening to many thousands of websites for Mom and Pop business websites. Google now is extremely dominant in search and particularly in mobile search (even more important for purchasing decisions) when people are on the move. This imposes an obligation on Google to avoid doing harm by inadvertently trying some variant of an update and then withdrawing it when they become aware of an adverse effect. The up-then-down pattern of visits shown above from Organic Search is completely unreasonable. Google should accept that it has an obligation to not do harm by its actions and be creative in resolving this injustice.
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