CommentaryJun 5th, 2013

Google's New Algorithm: Float like a Hummingbird or Sting like a Bee?


We’ve all come to warily await Google’s next Panda and Penguin updates, but the Hummingbird is different—it’s a complete makeover of the existing search algorithm. The animal was chosen to mark this algorithm due its speed and precision and went into effect about a month ago. Hummingbird is the biggest change to Google since early 2010, when the Caffeine, the last algorithm update, was implemented.

Google embodied the phrase “in with the old and out with the new” by essentially dumping the old algorithm and starting fresh with a new and improved method. The transformation was made so quickly that it was nearly impossible to even notice the switch. The difference between Caffeine and Hummingbird is that Caffeine helped Google gather better information rather than sorting through or differentiating, whereas Hummingbird is designed to provide Googlers with better answers to longer and more complex questions.

Conversational search is becoming increasingly popular—people are asking questions to search engines in a more natural way, and Hummingbird has been taught to understand that language by focusing on the meaning behind your words. It’s being presented as a query expansion or broadening approach which can better understand longer natural language queries, like the ones that people speak, instead of shorter keyword matching queries which someone might type into a search box.

Searcher satisfaction may be improved by the way Google analyzes different search entities, such as the relationships between queries, and by taking into account how long someone might dwell on a page they’ve selected from a set of search results. Hummingbird will focus more on ranking sites for better relevance by digging deeper into the company’s encyclopedia of 570 million concepts and relationships, better known as the Knowledge Graph.

Death to SEO?

Thankfully, there’s only good news to report from this update for SEO. There’s nothing new or different to worry about—guidance remains the same by telling us to have original, high-quality content. Everything that’s been important before remains true, just with Google processing info in new and better ways.


  • Page rank is still important and one of 200 major ingredients in the Hummingbird recipe.
  • Businesses should position themselves as thought leaders and provide answers that people are searching for.
  • Hummingbird will return better search results.
  • Google will understand conversational search better by focusing on each word in a query.
  • Content is still king—have original, high quality content.
  • Chances are high you will not lose traffic from Google.
  • Panda and Penguin are no longer part of the new algorithm.

Learn to see Hummingbird as a way to separate yourself from the competition. This update will help weed out the spammy tactics and reward the do-gooders with the opportunity to rise above. If you’ve been doing the right things for your SEO, you don’t need to change a thing.

Danielle Bartholomew is an SEO Strategist with Stream Companies, a leading full service integrated advertising agency.

Authored by

Bryan Forbes

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