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The impact of Google Hummingbird Algorithm on SEO

Hummingbird came along after the Panda and Penguin Google updates and changed the way the Internet worked in a pretty drastic way. Google wanted an entire search query to be taken into account instead of just a few words here and there. The Hummingbird update has actually been referred to as a complete overhaul of the entire Google algorithm. While some of the core elements of the Google algorithm stayed intact, for the most part, Hummingbird completely changed the way a website ranks in Google and definitely threw business owners, digital marketing agencies, and website owners for a loop when their rank dropped after the algorithm updated. But how did Hummingbird affect Google rankings?

There’s no question that the Hummingbird algorithm is only the beginning of change in search optimization, but smart content creators can be prepared to thrive in this — and any — environment that may come in the future.

This release is basically a platform that enables Google to better handle “conversational” search queries.

The Main Purpose of Hummingbird

One of the main purposes of Hummingbird was to translate semantic search from just a concept on the page to a reality that eventually would become the standard. It created a search engine environment that provides users with the best and most relevant information and direction on how to get exactly what they need, when, and where to get it.

Voice Search and the HummingBird Update

Google’s Hummingbird update, in a lot of ways, was a step down the path of mastering the skill of voice search. Google had to be able to understand search engine queries spoken in a natural language, and Hummingbird was another paved highway to the city of perfection in voice search performance. In our modern age, we have to come to understand that technology that can only understand search engine queries by a keyword here and there would never be able to harness the power of gauging the actual intent of a user. The Hummingbird update was designed with the goal of providing more relevant search results in a world of voice search.

HummingBird Paving the Way

While there was some fallout in the SEO community thanks to Hummingbird, the update did do a very good job of keying the world of digital marketing into a plan much bigger. No longer would Google treat a search engine query like a string of keywords. Unfortunately for some, this also meant that websites that had fallen for the plague of keyword stuffing felt the consequences of not having relevant, quality content on their websites. The only way a website owner could ensure his site wouldn’t feel the pain was to make certain that the site was speaking in a language that could be easily understood and that spoke the natural language of a user in their very own words.

How do you know that the Hummingbird Update is at work?

According to Google, the Hummingbird Update should especially improve the conversational search, which is using your voice to define the search request. For spoken search requests, the entire search request of the user (the spoken sentence) is interpreted at a higher level as well and more relevant results are returned. This means that the search results are sorted differently than before, which results in more accurate answers.

Hummingbird helps with complex queries but also impacts over 90% of searches worldwide now.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer


Example of search results BEFORE and AFTER the Hummingbird Update (according to Google):

  • a search for [pay your bills through citizens bank and trust bank] before the Hummingbird Update returned the homepage for the Citizens Bank ( as a result. After the Hummingbird Update, the user now gets the corresponding informational page on Citizens Bank for the same search request (

How does Google Hummingbird impact SEO?

The clearest impact of the Hummingbird update on SEO was a decreased focus on keywords. It is no longer as important that the words you use in your content directly match the words used in the person’s query.

While some argued that this meant keywords were obsolete, really it just means that their importance has shifted. Now, instead of writing content for specific keywords, you need to create content that addresses particular topics. Keyword research, like the capabilities you have through the BrightEdge Data Cube, remains important because it sheds light on the topics that people search for the most. Performing this research will help you align your content creation process with what your targeted customers want to see.

Read more What does Google Hummingbird Algorithm mean


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