Happy Birthday Google, what is Hummingbird?

Google turned 15 years old last week and a day before the birthday celebrations started they announced the rolling out of Hummingbird which was in-fact rolled out a month before their birthday.

What is Hummingbird?

Hummingbird is an algorithmic¬†search update that’s been designed to deliver more complex search results in a quicker way. In short as far as I am led to believe it’s designed to return results for complex phrases and sentences rather than word by word results, meaning this:

A search term with specific meaning like “How many calories in a *insertbrand” would result in:

Before Hummingbird: results from forums, yahoo answers, dietary website etc.

After Hummingbird: results from *insertbrand’s own website with specific nutritional data

What does this mean for generic terms?

Who knows! Google isn’t giving much away at this stage. One thing is certain though, Hummingbird has been running for over a month now (Since Sept. 2013) and if your website is going to be effected by any of these updates you will have noticed it by now.

What this could mean is that more generic terms are going to be second guessed by Google – let’s presume the searcher is looking for a specific health condition. Before Hummingbird the search results might had shown specific drug websites for that particular condition because there are drug pages with those terms for that condition, now with Hummingbird the results will return pages with information about the condition, if you need treatment, where to go for treatment etc.

Before Hummingbird: keyword 1 + keyword 2 + keyword 3.

The resulting pages that contain all the matching keywords would be presented highlighted in bold, these are the pages that Google presumed were what the user was expecting.

After Hummingbird: [what is, how to, how do] keyword 1 [and how can I, and is it, and] keyword 2 [in my, for the, in children’s, in] keyword 3.

Now with Hummingbird it’s anticipating or reading between the lines, in the square brackets I’ve pre filled between the keywords the possibles that Hummingbird might be anticipating.

For me this means that the content of your site should be more readable in human terms because that’s what the¬†algorithm is presuming the searcher is looking for. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – write the content of your website for users not search engines, the¬†algorithms have been getting more human like in recent years and as Google embarks into it’s teens it’s becoming wiser and more intelligent, scary as that sounds its a fact. I wouldn’t say it’s going to turn into Skynet anytime soon though!

This update is supposed to be the most significant update since Caffeine which was pretty dramatic for some websites. The only thing I would say about the new Hummingbird algorithm from Google is that we’ll just have to wait and see as the SEO’s start to report any significant changes to their previous results. It’s not even clear yet where or if this algorithm has been rolled out across a small number of data centres or all!

Come on Matt Cutts, give us a little to work on brother!

3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Google, what is Hummingbird?

  1. To me it feels like Google is trying to move away from exact match and do a ‘match all’. If I’M right it should make it easier to SEO for more phrases and terms per page. And you can finally start to move away from exact phrase matching where the result reads as poor English….

  2. Nice article, it’s a continuing trend that Google gives us hardly any info regarding these updates.
    My own experiance isn’t good, several sites have dropped rank massively and others have remained normal.
    Would help a lot if I knew why! grrrrrr

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