Google's Hummingbird Update: What you need to know

September 30, 2013.


On the 27th September, Google confirmed it rolled out a new algorithm, called Hummingbird, just over a month ago. This development is significant as it involves the technology Google uses to look at all the information is has access to and return relevant search results.

Hummingbird, named because of its ability to be precise and fast, replaces the Caffeine algorithm, which was implemented in 2010. Both Panda and Penguin updates were made to this existing algorithm, and the introduction of a new algorithm coincides with the search giant’s 15th birthday.

Google has said that Hummingbird is essentially a new engine that has been built on existing and new parts. It is designed to respond to modern search demands, which have hugely evolved in the last three years. When people first used a search engine to find something online, they entered pretty static phrases. For example, in 2005, someone looking for a summer break may have Googled ‘Holidays Suffolk'. Nowadays, we’re much more accustomed to ‘Conversational Search’ where the semantics are more sophisticated. Users now will search ‘5* holidays in south of Suffolk with good food for children’.

Essentially, Google is paying more attention to the meaning behind the words in a search query and the users' intent. Search Engine Land, an industry news source, uses a good example to illustrate how this might work. Historically if someone searched for ‘paying bills at XXXX bank’ prior to Hummingbird, Google would return the home page of the bank. This was accurate, but not as helpful as it could be. Post-Hummingbird, Google will return a page all about paying bills at the bank.
‘Conversational Search’ isn’t a new topic for Google and is something it’s already been introducing through Knowledge Graph answers. With this, Google is building a massive graph of ‘real world things and their connections’ to bring more meaningful results.

As with all Google updates, the search industry tend to buzz with discussion about what the ramifications may be for their brands and clients. Google insists that the update shouldn’t give anyone cause to worry. The guidelines from Google remain the same – invest in original and high quality content. This is, and continues to be, a core element of search strategy for our SEO clients and we welcome any development that will give users a better experience.



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