Welcome To The Future of Local Search: The Human Algorithm

The Future of Local Search is The Human Algorithm

The Human Algorithm is The Future of Local Search

The human algorithm? What the heck is that now? We’ve heard enough about the Google Zoo of search algorithms, changes, and updates. I bet you’ve heard of these algorithmic animals in the Google Zoo: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. With each of these updates, Google’s algorithm gets smarter and smarter in understanding the semantics of what we’re searching for and what problems we’re trying to solve.

Whether it be the closest fine dining restaurant, movie theatre, or liquor store, Google’s search algorithm wants to give you the most relevant results for your search query. Before we get into understanding what the future of local search holds for businesses, let’s briefly take a quick look at Google’s search algorithm updates and changes that took place over the last year or so.


Local Search Algorithm Updates

Panda and Penguin were major updates to the then existing Google search algorithm. Panda focused on lowering the rankings of “low quality”, “thin”, and “spammy” websites and serve up higher quality websites, higher in the SERPs. Panda was all about quality. That’s a good thing. Google wanted to ensure website provided a stellar user experience.

Penguin’s focus was with bad or spammy links and shady, “black-hat” link building tactics. Sites that used these SEO tactics faced penalties from Google. Remember the Rap Genius penalty where Google buried the company’s web pages so deep into search that they may as well have remove them completely. If you recall that story, then make sure you read How Rap Genius Fixed Their SEO Mess and Got Back On Google. The Penguin update affected approximately 3.1% of all English search queries.

Hummingbird is actually not an algorithm update the way Penguin and Panda were. Instead, Hummingbird is a brand new search algorithm that Google introduced in August 2013. What’s strange about this is that Google didn’t announce the new algorithm change until September 26, 2013 – the eve of the company’s 15 anniversary!

Hummingbird is all about context. The context of the user’s search query. Wikipedia says“Google always had synonyms, he writes, but with Hummingbird it is also able to judge context – thereby judging the intent of a person carrying out a search, to determine what they are trying to find out.”

True SEO expert, Danny Sullivan said of Hummingbird, “Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account.”

Michelle Hill said Hummingbird is about “understanding intent”. Steve Masters wrote, “The Hummingbird approach should be inspirational to anyone managing and planning content – if you aren’t already thinking like Hummingbird, you should be. In a nutshell, think about why people are looking for something rather than what they are looking for. A content strategy should be designed to answer their needs, not just provide them with facts.”


Local Search and Where Humans Fit In

The video below was shot at this year’s SMX Advanced 2014 Expo in Seattle. For some key takeaways from that super awesome conference, check out the 7 important slideshare decks from SMX Advanced. The video, which you can also find on YouTube is titled: Local & The Place Of Humans and features speaker Justin Sanger. Justin is the Founder & CEO, SupportLocal. Below is the chat he presented at the Search Engine Land Summit at SMX Advanced 2014 in Seattle.


Say goodbye to local search as we know it. We have entered into a period of the human algorithm.

The future of local search can be summed up in two words – collaboration and trust. Are you prepared? Listen to Justin Sanger, recognized as a long–time innovator and leader in local search for insights into the new geography of local.




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