The Biggest Change May Not Be The One You Thought
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Hummingbird update is not the change from keyword matching to conversational / problem solving matching, but the fact that it is also increasingly going to be looking at user behaviour on Google, i.e what they did before and after finding a site in the SERPS.
Sites Rated for Usefulness (for a given search term)
I believe that they are doing this so that they can ‘rate’ a site for ‘usefulness’ i.e is it a good site in the view of the user (sites that are visited, with the user quickly returning to Google being given low scores and those where the user stays on the site / does not return given higher I presume). By the way, in case you did not know, Google get a LOT of data like this from Chrome users.
If the above is true (and I like most can only read what Google and other pundits are saying) then this also leads to another important area, one that is close to Google’s heart, that of site quality. Their ‘holy grail’ (so they say) is to make sure that the sites they list first are the best available, but they have struggled with finding a rule set that makes this happen, using the measurements above, together with improved Social Signal measurement may just bring them closer to their target.
Site Quality Will Become More Important
Again, IF the above is true, this means that site designers and owners (and SEO professionals) will be having to look far more closely at site quality in the future. This is not a new message of course, Google having been saying that content is far more important than the latest SEO trick, but now perhaps, they will be able to put some teeth behind their words. We will see.
For more info on this topic please see this interesting hummingbird article
It certainly makes interesting reading.