What Does the Google Hummingbird Update Mean for Your Business?


The latest buzz in the world of search is Google’s most recently announced algorithm, “Hummingbird.” Although Hummingbird was released over a month ago, the new algorithm is significant because it marks the first time in about 12 years (according to Google search chief Amit Singhal) that Google has so drastically rewritten an algorithm. Compare this to the hard-hitting Panda and Penguin algorithms which differ in that they were updates rather than a completely new algorithm implementation.

What is the Hummingbird Algorithm?

Google says that the Hummingbird algorithm is meant to return better search results. How it differs from other main algorithms like PageRank –which concentrates a lot on links to a page, quality concerns and on-page factors – is that the Hummingbird algorithm uses these factors in addition to a much more concentrated effort to understand every word in a particular search as they relate to each other. In this sense Hummingbird is a new take on how Google interprets context and semantics.

How Does Hummingbird Search Improve Results?

According to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, a founding editor at the website and a man privy to conversations with Google engineers, Google cites conversational search functionality as one of the main improvements to the algorithm. Conversational search is where a human will interact with the search engine in more conversational tones rather than just inputting a few keywords and pushing go.

For example, take a search that asks “Where is the closest place to get an oil change near my home?” Formerly, Google may have returned a search matching for the words “oil change” rather than the rest of the query.

Hummingbird would do its best to focus on the words like “closest place” and “near my home” (provided you have shared your home information with Google). Instead of merely producing results of oil change facilities in your city, it would likely try to determine the closest oil change shop next to your home and provide results from there.

Why the Hummingbird Changes?

If you are familiar with Google’s Knowledge Graph you probably understand that Google has already been taking strides towards understanding context and providing answers to questions in completely different ways. Knowledge Graph does a great job of this, but Hummingbird is designed to be more precision-based as opposed to a center where context is used to connect searchers with related searches in the way Knowledge Graph does.

Google Before and After Example

At this point it is difficult to test before and after searches however Google has provided us some to look at that showcase the power of Hummingbird. A look at a search for “pizza hut calories per slice” formerly revealed top results for a generic site about food and diet. Post-Hummingbird the same search features top results for a Pizza Hut page dedicated to nutritional information, giving users more credible data directly from the source of the food. In another example, this time for “pay your bills through citizen’s bank,” the old search brought up the Citizen’s Bank home page yet now brings up a specific page about paying bills. These are just a few examples of how Hummingbird is designed to dig a bit deeper into context.

What Hummingbird Means for your Business

If you are the marketing manager of your company and are looking to capitalize on algorithm updates (rather than be hindered by them) do your best to continue to create the most robust content possible. Great content gives Google the opportunity to index your website and provide searchers with answers to questions they have about your products or services. Consider that many of your users will increasingly be on mobile devices and also consider the context of search and how it relates to your business. In other words, position your content to address the answers that people may be seeking.

If your business can be a resource for solutions, you will be providing it more opportunity to garner more traffic than other websites that don’t adapt to the new trend in semantic search.

Closing Statements

Hummingbird has not created the negative buzz of past algorithm updates, meaning content rich website owners and SEOs are benefitting from its ability to draw in relevant searches. Learn more about creating great content or contact us to find out how we can work with you to develop a content strategy that is great for search engines and more importantly your potential customers.

Thanks for reading,

-Avin Kline