How Google’s Hummingbird Will Redefine the Future of SEO

“Hummingbird” may have been a type of a very small nectar-feeding bird that’s able to fly and hover backwards. Its name was derived from the humming sounds it produced due to the rapid vibrations of its wings. But Google may have found even deeper qualities in the species to name its latest algorithm to this colorfully iridescent-plumaged bird.

And it’s perhaps for its being “precise and fast”. The latest search algorithm code-named after the tropical American bird, Hummingbird is just one along the improvements in Knowledge Graph facility that Google announced recently.

For Google, “Hummingbird” then becomes its most massive shift since like 12 years ago. The switch was already flipped since August, following the 2009 update Caffeine, whose integral specialty was about speed and the integration of social media results into search.


How Hummingbird Work?

Unless, of course, you are still in the caves, and haven’t tried Google yet. There’s little reason not to swoon and appreciate how useful to everyone’s life this engine. It may even be your favorite of all the leviathan search engines simply because it brings faster and better results.

Yet the experience that Google brings to your searching life is not difficult to understand, even by second graders. Because originally, what Google does is match keywords in your search query to the same words on web pages.

Then came Hummingbird, its latest, that’s able to understand phrases in a query. After finding a match to that meaning, it then displays web pages more accurately. So, perhaps Google is right. With Hummingbird, the revamped search should “return with better results.”

Like Google, we will avoid being too technical in explaining these things. We’re better off using some piece of analogy in defining or explaining how Hummingbird works. Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land, perfectly put it this way:


“Think of a car built in the 1950s. It might have a great engine, but it might also be an engine that lacks things like fuel injection or be unable to use unleaded fuel. When Google switched to Hummingbird, it’s as if it dropped the old engine out of a car and put in a new one. It also did this so quickly that no one really noticed the switch.”


With the latest algorithm refresh, it also has deliberately focused on ranking sites for better relevance by using its Knowledge Graph. Says Amit Singhal, Google’ senior VP of search, it is an encyclopedia of sort that pools 570 million concepts and relationships.


What Search Activities Does Hummingbird Help?

It remains debatable whether or not the rise of mobile revolutionized the way people search for online information. But the new Hummingbird suggests that there’s been a massive shift in that direction that Google seems bent on addressing with the algorithm refresh.

Hence, Hummingbird suggests Google’s keen eyes on conversational search. Isn’t it that when people talk through their Google Now app on their Android-powered mobile devices, would one way or another want to engage in a conversation?

Say if you are looking for the nearest pharmaceutical store to buy an anti-histamine to my home, the pre-Hummingbird algorithm would simply find matches for words “buy”, “pharmaceutical store” and “anti-histamine”.

Through Hummingbird, the meaning behind the words mattered most. And if you’ve shared with Google your location, Hummingbird might have a fuller grasp of the actual location of your home. It might also understand that “anti-histamine” is a particular type of drug being sold by certain pharmaceutical stores. By parsing the meaning of the phrases, Google is able to find pages with matching phrases, not just words.

Sullivan added what Google says about the finer magic of Hummingbird: “paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”


Is Hummingbird Laying the Groundwork for the Future of Search?

There’s no one more reliable to speak about this than Google. And Singhal, who is also a software engineer, talked about how Google evolved its technology since founding fifteen years ago.

As the world entered this new era, Singhal added, search is proving to be an effective catalyst for helping bring content findable. Then today, the rise in mobile phone adoption has catapulted the increase in searching on the go – or people searching whatever they want, whenever they may be.

It has relentlessly explored what common and complex questions people are facing and how Google can help by creating its search technology even better. And it’s safe to say that Hummingbird is doing its job well: answering questions, allowing for conversation to appear more natural, and anticipating what uses want to know.


So ultimately, What Does Hummingbird Means For Search Marketing?

Google has this ultimate wish to deliver better and faster search: reinventing itself to make “natural conversation” between people and search technology seamlessly possible in ways that are simple and more intuitive.

Though it remains to be seen if Hummingbird will reinvent the way people perform search, it seems the deep impact of Hummingbird for search businesses and advertising agencies may be positive.

Search engine expert and author of Google Semantic Search, David Amerland has arguably the best explanation how the move to Hummingbird will benefit practitioners of search engine optimization and online marketing.

Semantic web has, for a very long time, been discussed by experts and practitioners of SEO and marketing. With Hummingbird expanding the capability of Google in this direction, the doors opened for companies and webmasters turned considerably wide.

Amerland emphatically suggests: “The comparison element that has been integrated suggests that semantic mark-up may begin to confer an advantage now when it comes to helping index information in products and services.”

The book author also emphasizes that SEO success will hinged on the importance of not neglecting content and sharing them through social networks through identified key influencers, though it “requires time and commitment to building a relationship with influencers and sharing with them content that is of real value to their network.”

Defiantly, he declared quick SEO is now already a thing of the past.

Other observers of note like Christy Belden, VP of Leap Interactive’s marketing and media division, agrees that SEO of Hummingbird-way is steering in the right direction. She said it makes a lot of sense to release the update when “more users (are) searching via mobile and voice.”

For Archology SEO executive, Jenny Halasz, the recent Google Hummingbird update means agencies will have to deal less and less about keywords and “more about the intention behind it.” Noting that not having keywords provided will prove even more challenging for them to discover customer needs and intentions, but there are workarounds to explore.

The focus of SEO “should be less about keywords data and more about customer engagement,” Halasz was quoted in an article by Amy Gesenhues of Search Engine Land, an industry blog.

At any rate, Google just seems more interested now in treating users to find more precise results. Just what Ken Young, a writer at The NextWeb, summed up what the latest algorithm delivers relative to search experiences: answers, converse, and anticipate.

Partly so and the recent Google move is about beefing up what’s already there towards building a more semantic web. At least for the moment, it’s worthwhile to see where this flight will lead us in our journey to get there.



Forbes: Google Just Revamped Search to Handle Your Long Questions

Search Engine Land: FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

The Next Web: Google unveils search updates for mobile, new Page Rank algorithm, and Knowledge Graph comparisons

Search Engine Land: Hummingbird Takes Flight: SEOs Give Insight On Google’s New Algorithm