Google Hummingbird: A Game Changing Search Algorithm Update?

Written by Lee Colbran - 3 Oct 2013

The new Google update is here. We say ‘new’ because it was only officially announced last week. However, in the announcement, Google revealed Hummingbird has actually been in place for more than a month.

Hummingbird is significant, because with its announcement, there is something different to contemplate that has far-reaching implications. One key thing to remember is that Hummingbird is not a new filter within an existing algorithm. This is a new algorithm altogether, and one that encompasses the other 200 factors that Google assesses when judging which pages to show in its result pages.

Hummingbird is new, it’s shiny and it redefines Google search. Hummingbird is a new engine which retains some of the older parts of Google that were still performing well.

So what is Hummingbird? Here are the some key facts you need to know:

  1. The algorithm has been created to serve the search habits of today (and tomorrow)
  2. Hummingbird is an update that understands and delivers upon ‘user intent’
  3. It further develops the concept of conversational-based search
  4. Google is looking to replicate the way we think and predict the answer it believes  we are looking for
  5. Hummingbird appears to be more focused on an improvement to Knowledge Graph (Google’s expanded search results designed to give you as much information about your search as possible – see the screenshot below)
  6. Google is now looking to retain people on its SERPs for longer by gathering more information; it is not necessarily looking to pass traffic back to websites
  7. Pages that match the meaning of a user’s search will perform more effectively than pages that just match a few words. When creating pages, a webmaster needs to ask his or herself “What is it the user needs when entering their query? Will my page match their intent?”
  8. Google has said that every word in a query is being taken into account, i.e. the whole conversation or meaning, rather than just a few key words.

Google's Knowledge Graph in action

Hummingbird examples

Searchers were given a taste of what was to come (and is now here) with the launch of conversational search in Chrome, and within Knowledge Graph. Hummingbird extends the technology across the entire index in addition to Knowledge Graph and is expected to serve better results. Google has given examples of how the algorithm improves results, which we discuss below.

Hummingbird example one: “acid reflux prescription”

Before – Top result displayed a page that lists possible drugs for acid reflux:

After – Top results now link to pages offering information on available treatments:

Hummingbird example two: “pay your bills through citizens bank and trust bank”

Before – Top result used to display the Citizens Bank homepage

After – Now displays the specific Citizens Bank page about paying bills

Hummingbird example three: “pizza hut calories per slice”

Before – Top result used to show

After – Now directs the user straight to information directly from Pizza Hut:

So, Hummingbird means SEO is really dead, right?

No, SEO is not dead. But what does Hummingbird actually mean? It means that as users, our search habits are evolving. Therefore, Google has created a new algorithm in order to deliver results that really match the intent for which a query was entered in the first place.

“My traffic from Google dropped in the last month, has my site been affected by Hummingbird?”

It is important to remember that while Google rolled out this update in late August, other ‘bedded-in’ ranking factors have still been in play. If your website has not lost any traffic in the last month (remember to factor in seasonal changes within your vertical), then it is fair to say you have come through the first iteration of Hummingbird.

If you have witnessed traffic drops, feel free to give us a call and we’ll have a look at what might have happened to your site. It’s vitally important to ascertain potential reasons for any traffic fluctuations before jumping to any conclusions regarding your web property suffering because of Hummingbird.

What do businesses and organisations need to do now?

The first reassurance is: THERE IS NO NEED TO PANIC.

The search team at Fresh Egg have been waiting for Google to take search in this direction; it was always going to happen.

Our SEO campaigns are built around intent-based search. Our clients are already thinking in the right way when it comes to creating an entity that Google needs to include within results pages. SEO discover and consultancy audits that are undertaken by Fresh Egg have included detailed ‘audience intent’ investigations for some time.

For us this is not new; it is a welcome progression in the world of search from an organisation (i.e. Google) that has pioneered how to return relevant information based on words. The team at Google are now taking search into a new and exciting phase. A phase that will still reward websites with traffic referrals provided the information available is deemed suitable enough to satisfy the real intent of the search query.

If you’ve got any questions about the impact of Hummingbird on your site, the Fresh Egg expert team can help. Call us today on 0845 373 1071 or contact us online