Hummingbird's impact may be upon us as desktop and mobile results provide contextual answers directly in SERPs.

When Google quietly introduced the Hummingbird algorithm, a lot of marketers were surprised rankings didn’t fluctuate more. The search technology, designed to evaluate content on its ability to answer users’ questions, didn’t noticeably shake up results pages or diminish companies’ rankings. However, Google appears to be making more noticeable changes, or at least experimenting with new ways to answer users’ queries.

How-to videos take over SERPs

Video marketing is one of the fastest-rising content types, if not the biggest trend right now. Brands have embraced the idea of producing their own streaming media online and consumers seem to have an unending appetite for video content. Google was on-board too, and search marketing experts predicted video results would continue to usurp SERP real estate from text-based content.

Google is showing videos as answers in search results.

However, they might not have expected that Google would serve video results as the standalone answer to users’ questions. In a series of search experiments, we found that a video clip was the first and result in a query for “fishtail braid.” Notably, there were no text-based hyperlinks above the fold, and the search term didn’t even imply the question. Google inferred it was a request for a tutorial and delivered it via video.

Let the answers roll

In another example of how search results are changing, we found that Google is taking its question answering to the next level. Similar to the example above, in which the search engine anticipates and responds to the query, a recent mobile search yielded an actual answer.

The question was: “What instruments did Michael Jackson play?”Google is now providing answers in mobile search results.

The result was this:

An info card pulled information from the official Michael Jackson website to provide information in the form of an answer, as if there were a dialog taking place. It’s worth mentioning that this result pushed any other sites below the fold, so competing websites were out of view.

This example shows how powerful the semantic web is becoming, and it’s potential utility. Earlier this year, Google’s Amit Singhal said he hopes to make the search site something like a Swiss Army Knife, so users are always armed with the right tools (or information) when they need them. For consumers, this means no more fumbling to click links and scroll through pages of text to find the right snippet of information.

However, the message is different for marketers. It suggests the days of standard organic results are limited, and it means they need to jump on new tactics and approaches in order to stay visible in the fast-moving digital landscape.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.