Posted to Volacci's blog on September 30th, 2013

Hummingbird: Google’s Latest Algorithm Change & What it Means for Your Site

On Wednesday, September 27 Google confirmed that a new update to their search algorithm went live about a month prior to the announcement. Google shared the news of the latest update, dubbed Hummingbird, during their 15th birthday event at the Google Garage, the birthplace of the search engine giant. This update is said to have affected a staggering 90% of search results worldwide.

Hummingbird is said to be one of the biggest changes to the algorithm since 2010’s Caffeine update, or even reaching back to changes made back in 2001. More recent updates have been Panda and Penguin which were updates to the old algorithm, but are still factored into Hummingbird.

So, what’s new about this algorithm?


The long version? The new algorithm seeks to serve the search demands and technologies of today, especially mobile devices. Hummingbird takes largely into account conversational search, demonstrated back in May on Chrome browsers where users have an option to speak their query. It also accounts for complex searches and semantic search. This algorithm doesn't just process certain keywords in a query but works to understand the meaning behind every word, becoming more intelligent and more predictive with time.

The short version? More understanding of the complete meaning of queries, less keywords-only focus.

How will Hummingbird affect SEO?

Google says that its guidance for SEO efforts remains the same. Continue to create high-quality and original content on your sites. Signals of quality that have been important in the past are still important, such as fresh and engaging content, hierarchical site architecture, authority and reputation.

Is this going to affect website traffic?

Any site that was hit by Penguin 2.0 back in May can probably pinpoint immediate drops in traffic following the May 22 release. With Hummingbird, it has been a month since its release, so if your traffic trends have not shown any effects, it is likely you will not be affected by the update.

Google has stated that this algorithm is meant to have a query-by-query effect on searches, particularly complex or long-tail searches. If your site has seen a downturn, Google still claims that it could be from any other little tweaks or changes that occur on a regular base to the overall search algorithm.

What can I do in response to Hummingbird?

As Google has advised, keep creating high-quality content. Set higher standards for yourself by rethinking your approach to your content marketing strategy. Start to think in terms of what your customers or users are saying, look for internal company feedback about what’s not being answered about your services or products on your site. Create content with even more user intent in mind.

To learn more about user intent, check out this post.

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