The code name “Hummingbird” stands for a new generation of Google’s search algorithm, which already influences more than 90% of all worldwide search requests.
On the 15th anniversary of Google’s search, they announced on September 26 2013 that a comprehensive update for their search algorithm had been developed and that a new search algorithm called Hummingbird has become the foundation of the entire Google search as of August, 2013.
Hummingbird was an update that changed the way google understands queries and was a new engine for Google. It improved the understanding of synonyms, search intent, and conversational search. There were NOT widespread reports of ranking drops from this update, so if you dropped around this update, see if something else happened with your site.
Why Google Hummingbird?
While people seem satisfied with typing keywords into a search box, it seems that it’s more common for people to actually abandon their focus on just matching keywords when they perform a spoken query. We’re more likely to see someone typing [chicago style pizza restaurant] into a search box, and someone speaking the query [What is the best place to find and eat Chicago deep dish style pizza?] into their phone.
The Google Hummingbird patent provides a number of additional examples of how the words with a query might be used contextually to better understand other words that might be replaced within that query with synonyms or substitutes.
It is possible that the Google Hummingbird algorithm works somewhat differently than what is described in the claims and/or description of this hummingbird patent, but they seem to be a pretty good match.
What makes this algorithm update so special?
The Google Hummingbird Update sets itself apart from other Google algorithm updates, in that it is a brand new search algorithm, at the foundation of Google’s search. Google updates like the Panda Update or the Penguin Update have been significant updates to Google’s ranking algorithm – which itself is a part of the search algorithm.
The most recent time such a substantial change to any part of Google happened was in 2010, when the Google Caffeine Update was introduced. It is quite likely that the last time that Google’s search algorithm, as a whole, was changed in such a significant way, as happened with the Hummingbird Update, was back in 2001.
So Google Changed the Algorithm What does that Mean?
The best explanation I’ve heard to answer this question came from Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land (he wrote up a great QA about Hummingbird). His explanation went something like this, imagine that you have an old car, like a Chevy from the 60’s. One day you decide to swap out the engine for an engine that has more modern features. When you’re done swapping out the engine you still have the same car but the performance is enhanced. Google has basically changed their algorithm to enhance their performance.
What is the goal of the Hummingbird Update?
The goal of Google’s new search algorithm “Hummingbird” is to be able to better interpret the user’s search requests and thereby further increase the quality of the search results.
The code name “Hummingbird” is supposed to indicate that the search results will be both quick and precise.
The name comes from being precise and fast.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer
The new search algorithm is able to (better) interpret the entire search request, instead of only searching for single words within the search query. This enables Google to (better) understand the intentions behind a user’s search request, as well as the focus/context of an entire text document (for example a website). Both of these factors put the focus on an improved version of the search results.
Hummingbird impact all types of queries we get but far more effective on these long queries we get now.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer
Or, in the words of Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land:
Hummingbird is 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.– Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land
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