Google Hummingbird and What It Means to SEO

With biggest change since 2010’s Caffeine, Google has announced that it has made a change to the fundamental way in which its search algorithm works. This change has been dubbed “Hummingbird” and does have a major impact on the way that sites are displayed on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

How Hummingbird Differs from Previous Algorithmic Changes

Google Hummingbird is only the latest in a series of changes made by Google in order to promote the pages which they think will help search engine visitors find what they need. For the most part, all other changes to the search engine algorithm Google uses have been localized in scale, such as making tweaks to how inbound links affect search engine rank, or placing less important on the keyword meta tag on a website. While these minor changes can certainly have an effect on where a website is ranked, it was possible in most cases to re-gain the highest rankings by making a few adjustments to the website, or its backlinks. Google Hummingbird seems to have placed an increased importance on the content on a website, which is similar to what other updates have done, but this update has either added or enhanced the importance of what a visitor’s intent is when they search for something.

Hummingbird is the name of Google's latest algorithm update.

Why was Hummingbird Put Into Place?

For many years, the best way to find out what you wanted on the internet was to type in a few keywords into the search box. Instead of typing out “Where can I find a list of pizzerias in New York City”, you might just type “list of pizzerias NYC”. This is because, for the most part, people would rather type as few words as possible into a search engine in order to get what they need. However, with the advent of voice searches on mobile phones, it doesn’t take nearly as much time or effort to just say exactly what you mean. Before Google Hummingbird, typing in the full aforementioned phrase would either bring up sites that had that exact keyword on it, or many of the words would be looked over by the search engine and it would focus on the main ones “list, pizzerias, NYC”. Hummingbird includes all of the words and derives the intent of the user – they want a list of pizzerias in New York City, and returns results that the search engine thinks is most relevant to their intent, and answer their question.

How Can a Site’s Rankings Change Due to Hummingbird?

It seems as though Google Hummingbird has done what many other updates have done, which is put more emphasis on content as opposed to backlinks or on-page SEO. Specifically, the Hummingbird update is looking for sites that can provide answers to questions, as opposed to websites where keywords just appear in a certain density. For websites with a lot of content, especially content that does a good job of explaining the site’s purpose or its subject matter, there will probably be a rise in the rankings. Websites that rely on smaller pages that talk vaguely about what the site is about will probably see a drop in the rankings. The best bet is to add content that goes in-depth into subjects, think about questions people might ask about something specific and put both the question and answer into the content. If your website has dropped in the rankings due to Hummingbird, start re-evaluating what kind of content you have on the site and start switching some of it out with new material.

What does all of this mean for SEO overall?

As with any update, there will probably be a some adjustments required, but nothing too major, content will still be extremely important with backlinks being necessary as well. The key to making Hummingbird work for you is to create content that can answer questions, summaries are good, but answers are better. All Google updates generally aim to reduce the search engine ranks of websites that are just thrown online with the hope of gaining visitors and revenue. Hummingbird takes this to a different level by making sites with low quality content even less important.

Focusing on quality will always get you the best results in search engine rankings. Putting together a naturally-backlinked website with good content and a robust interlinking infrastructure should result in a good search engine ranking. Hummingbird may have been a change to the way that the Google algorithm works, but it wasn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Comment below and let us know if you’ve seen any differences in your experience with search since Hummingbird launched.

Anonymous About Ross Taylor

Ross Taylor is the man behind Alameda Internet Marketing. He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife, kids, and mother in law. When he's not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, listening to records, and spending quality time with his XBOX.


  1. Thank you Ross sir for a great article. Hummingbird has been a largest algorithm update after 2010. And unlike Penguin and Panda, its a complete replacement of older algorithms with some of the older components still working. The main aim of Google is show the user the relevant results. And be it today, or after a year, Google will take all measures to reduce the effect of factors that can be used by webmasters to manually affect the search engine rankings. Google want it all natural.

  2. We haven’t seen too much of an impact from the Hummingbird update, but we are hoping to get ahead of any impacts that might cause trouble to our client’s sites in the future. Have you seen any proactive changes to regular SEO best practices that might be helpful for future rankings?

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