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Google’s Hummingbird is Flying

Google launched “Hummingbird” late last month representing their largest algorithmic update in the past (3) years.  Then, six days later — they released their 5th Penguin update.  (It’s been a busy few months in the Search Industry).

So what is Hummingbird?

Well, Hummingbird is the newest Google algorithm that tackles the issue of long-tail search queries, especially those created from normal speech as search users increasingly talk into their smartphones.  It’s important to note that the vast majority of searches are indeed “long tail queries”.

Hummingbird fundamentally changes the algorithm, as a much more powerful mathematical approach is demanded to handle complex search queries. By ‘more complex’, we really mean ‘more natural’ – when you ask a human a question, you don’t simply blurt out a keyword , “best place to eat” and hope the person you’re talking to understands you’re asking for a recommendation in the locality for lunch. Hummingbird is Google’s attempt at handling normal textual articulation, such as, “Could you recommend a good restaurant in San Diego for less than $30 please?”

Google shared that the name “Hummingbird” was selected because of the algorithms’ precision and speed.  Following is a great informative video overview and introduction of Hummingbird from Moz:

Obviously, it’s not just that a longer search term means more complexity, it’s also that more information creates an even greater opportunity to figure out exactly what the context of the query is. For instance, “World Trade Center” alone will unearth plenty of information on 9/11, Al Qaeda, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with a host of factual data on the WTC itself such as height, floors, square footage and so on.

But when you speak a query you are more likely to add plenty of modifiers to the query which will put the search query into proper context.  For instance, “I’d like to know which businesses had offices in the North Tower of the World Trade Center please?

The context is clearly on which businesses had a physical presence in one of the towers, rather than the who, what, why, how and where of 9/11, nor of the statistics associated with the WTC.

This is where Hummingbird enhances the algorithm with more firepower – it is providing the algorithm with the ability to see how things are connected and related, and therefore, also relevant to the search query.

The implications for search engine optimization will continue to evolve, however it’s clear that value of high-quality, relevant content has never been higher as Hummingbird puts more pressure on every site’s ability to showcase quality content for any/all keyword phrases that are being targeted.


Hummingbird is the largest change to Google’s algorithm since Caffeine in 2010 (which affected how fast sites were indexed).

Hummingbird provides the algorithm with increased mathematical power to tackle complex or natural language searches, such as those used increasingly on mobile phones where the search is spoken into the device (example: Apple’s Siri).

Hummingbird also allows the algorithm to better use the mountain of data amassed by Google on concepts and relationships.

To learn more about the changes influenced by Hummingbird, please use our free online tool to view search volume estimates and/or access the competitive landscape on any of your relevant keyword phrases.  Or, just drop us a quick note if you’d like us to help review your site:


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Categories: Google Updates |