Google Hummingbird Update

Google Hummingbird Update

Google Hummingbird Update.

With Google Hummingbird Update, the goal behind “Hummingbird,” Google’s first comprehensive overhaul of the firm’s search algorithm in a dozen years, can be summed up in a single sentence:

Provide better, more complete answers to increasingly complex search questions.

But what does that mean, exactly?  To answer this question, let’s take a quick look at life in the search engine world before and after Hummingbird.

Before the recent algorithm overhaul, Google searches used Boolean algebra to match information with keywords typed in by searchers.  This technique worked reasonably well in the pre-mobile world, which was dominated by one- and two-word searches.  Over the course of the last decade, though, the limitations of straight keyword searches have become increasingly obvious.

Here comes Hummingbird.  Rather than focus on keywords and producing strings of information in response, the new algorithm seeks to answer questions input by users via smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.  That means understanding the context and the semantics of the query to provide accurate, precise information  that get searches to Web pages that answer the question, rather than producing pages and pages of links and data.

To do that, Hummingbird uses information from a variety of sources, including previous searches, social media and even the location of the user.  While one- or two-word searches will still produce the basic information searchers are used to, Hummingbird is designed to use predictive technology and language processing to find the documents on the Web that best match the information goals of the search.

Technologically, Google is playing it close to the vest with regard to revealing the latest changes.  Most experts feel the basic math formula is still basically the same, just redesigned to be faster and more efficient.  A shift to language processing and interpretation is a big part of the equation, obviously, and Google also beefed up and added filters to Knowledge Graph, the on-line encyclopedia of approximately 570 million concepts and relationships that are used to anticipate the desired facts and figures in a given search.

Thankfully, Hummingbird doesn’t wipe out previous updates to the algorithm such as “Panda” and “Penguin,” both of which were far less comprehensive.  One expert described the technology shift as a “new engine,” but still using some of the same parts and pieces from the old one.  On a more conceptual level, another expert described the move to Hummingbird as analogous to the shift from a low-level computer language to a more complex, sophisticated one.

Regardless of how the change is described, most SEO executives and experts and executives expect the new results to be largely transparent, even though approximately 90 percent of searches are expected to be at least slightly affected by the change.  Discovering customer intent will become more complex than it was in a keyword-based search world, but success will still depend on providing information-rich, descriptive content.

For Google, Hummingbird also represents an effort to answer one of the biggest challenges to the firm in recent years: the use of apps to get information from discrete services rather than use searches. Toward that end, Google as also added voice features to several of its mobile apps.

For the business world at large, the change should also be transparent, save for the hope that searches will become faster and more accurate.  But businesses small and large might want to follow Google’s lead here and employ a strategy that mirrors the way Hummingbird works: ask the top ten questions your clients are asking, then create pages focused on providing the best answers for those questions.


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