Google Updates the Search Algorithm: What Matters in Hummingbird?

Google Updates the Search Algorithm: What Matters in Hummingbird?

By Marc Reifenrath on October 9, 2013 in Digital Marketing

What exactly is Hummingbird?

It's the new search algorithm that Google has been using for about a month or so, but recently unveiled at a 15 year anniversary company event. As with any update, specific details on how the search algorithm works are left hidden, but certain changes are highlighted...including what might be the most important change, "conversational search".

“Conversational search”

Simply put, people often search like they speak. A common search may look something like this...

Where is the best place to buy calzones near my house?

Rather than focusing on individual keywords and looking for websites with pages that contain the words: "buy" and "calzones", Hummingbird takes into account the meaning behind the question. Based on the context, it might understand things like:

  • Where "your house" is (based on the device you're searching from and/or whether you've told Google on your own)
  • What you mean by "place" (aka the physical location of the restaurant for dine-in or carryout)
  • Where "calzones" should be available based on what type of food they are

In particular, Google says that it's paying much more attention to all words in the search, and taking the whole sentence or conversation into account rather than particular words. The end goal is that the pages matching the meaning of the search do better than those that simply match a few words.

Wasn't Google already doing this sort of thing?

Yes and no. Google has only really been doing this sort of thing within it's Knowledge Graph, but now it's able to apply the same technology to billions of pages across the web (on top of the facts it already has with the Knowledge Graph).

Do I need to worry about Hummingbird from an SEO perspective?

No. In fact Google has stated there is nothing new or different you should be doing. Same rules as before apply: original, high quality content is what matters.

What are some examples of how Hummingbird may work?*

A search for “acid reflux prescription” used to list a lot of drugs (such as the example on the left, Google said), which might not necessarily be the best way to treat the disease. Now, Google says results have information about treatment in general, including whether you even need drugs, such as the example on the right as one of the listings.

Hummingbird Google update compare sites

A search for “pay your bills through citizens bank and trust bank” used to bring up the home page for Citizens Bank but now should return the specific page about paying bills.

Google Hummingbird site side by side

A search for “pizza hut calories per slice” used to list an answer like the left, Google said, but not one from Pizza Hut. Now, it lists this answer on the right directly from Pizza Hut itself, Google says.

Google Hummingbird update overview

(* Samples taken from Danny Sullivan's: FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm)

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