Last month, Google announced its brand new search engine algorithm, Hummingbird. Google are regularly updating the way in which their search engine functions. Algorithm updates such as Caffeine, Panda and Penguin changed the way in which sites were indexed and how they ranked within Google’s searches. However, Hummingbird appears to be the biggest change since the last new algorithm was in place, which was back in 2001, over a decade ago.

Recent research carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau calculated that 46 million people in the United Kingdom spend one in 12 waking minutes on the internet. Spending so much time surfing, we want to be able to find what we are looking for quickly and efficiently.

At times we have to type in more and more words into Google to get the results we want. Google’s old algorithm returned search results that reflected matching combinations of keywords that a long tail search query contained. Prior to the Hummingbird update, Google almost ignored what the user was specifically asking for. At times it would completely disregarded the true meaning of the search query itself.

This is where Hummingbird has flown to the rescue. Google’s new algorithm will return search results based on the full meaning of a search query, rather than just picking out keywords and displaying results based on their relevancy. Hummingbird has enhanced the way in which Google understands search queries, which is reflected through its search results.

So, what does this mean in terms of SEO?

Google have stated that SEOs and publishers need not panic. SEO guidelines and procedures will remain the same. Ensuring that you have high quality, original, relevant content will do wonders for your ranking within Google searches.

However, several SEOs have stated that this new algorithm update from Google highlights the shift towards a semantic SEO approach. Semantic search considers numerous factors including; context, location, intent and synonyms.

Moz author Matthew Brown used a definition from Tamas Doszkocs of WebLib:

“Semantic Search is a search or a question or an action that produces meaningful results, even when the retrieved items contain none of the query terms, or the search involves no query text at all.”

A good example to demonstrate this would be typing in “Coldplay songs” into Google. Prior to Hummingbird the search query would have returned a page of websites presenting you with a wide array of lyrics to their songs. Now Hummingbird is in place, searching “Coldplay songs” now returns a variety of different hits including: a Wikipedia page, YouTube videos, recent posts from the bands Google+ page, images, albums and much more.

Generating useful content focusing on answering specific questions on what users are searching for could have huge SEO benefits. This also highlights the importance of off-page SEO involving the use of social media sites and creating user-generated content through engaging your customers.

New algorithm, will you lose traffic?

Hummingbird has been live for just less than 2 months now, so if you didn’t notice any changes in traffic during August and September then you have come through the Hummingbird update unfazed. If you have noticed a drop in traffic, Google did highlight that it could be down to Hummingbird but it could also be down to specific parts of the new algorithm. There is no way of actually knowing.

Hummingbird is set to affect approximately 90% of all Google search results, but to what extent is currently unknown. Google’s Hummingbird has been designed to retain more data for its own use in order to gain a greater data competitive advantage over its competitors. With this is mind; Google could soon have the power to target its users through online advertising more accurately than any other advertiser or publisher in the world!

What should I be doing now?

At the moment it is hard to say if and how your website will be affected by Hummingbird in the future. As previously mentioned, SEO practices and procedures will remain the same. The gradual shift towards semantic search within Google highlights the importance for the creation of constant, high quality content that focuses on the user’s experiences and interactions. After all, Google is looking for websites that constantly appear to be part of the community. A place in which real people, interact, communicate and share with other real people that also interact, communicate and share with real people.

As always making sure that you have original, compelling, relevant content will be key to increasing visibility within Google searches.


Below we have listed some more articles you may wish to check out to get up to speed on Hummingbird…..Enjoy!