Hummingbird: What Google's latest update means for you

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00
Posted in SEO
Written by  Emma Mackenzie

As Google announces yet another algorithm change, we look at what impact Hummingbird is likely to have on your search results.  Conversational search is where it's at - and there's not a Penguin in sight...

For those in the know, random animal names being allocated to Google algorithm changes won't come as much of a surprise.  We've seen Panda's and Penguin's wreak havoc over the past couple of years, so what you may ask, is so special about Hummingbird?  Well, according to the bods at Google HQ, this one's a game changer. 

What, exactly, is an algorithm I hear some of you ask?!  Google's search algorithm is the process that the search giant uses to sort its search results.  No-one (other than Google themselves) know exactly how the algorithm works.  All we know is that there are a number of factors that influence the process. 

All New

Hummingbird is different to other Google algorithm updates that have been rolled out over the last couple of years, in that rather than being an update to the existing algorithm, Hummingbird is all new.  Google has replaced the old algorithm with an entirely new way of processing search results - and they've done it already, without anyone noticing! 

The word from Google is that the name Hummingbird was selected for the algorithm because it's precise and fast, just like its namesake. 

So why the change? 

As with all technology, things date.  Google says that the old algorithm just wasn't fit for purpose in today’s modern world.  Think of it like an old car engine unable to run on unleaded petrol.  Google has effectively changed the engine, although some of the parts (yep, back to Panda and Penguin once again) are compatible with the new engine and will continue to be used.

Will my search rankings drop?

Most of us can breathe a big sigh of relief.  As Hummingbird is already in place it's unlikely that if you haven't done so already, you'll notice much difference in your results. 

What is the difference then?

The big focus with Hummingbird is on what's known as conversational search.  This is something that Google had already started to develop, but Hummingbird takes it to the next level.  It means that rather than just one or two keywords being taken out of context and results displayed relating to those terms, Google is able to pay much more attention to each word within the search query.  This allows Google to take into account the search query in its entirety, giving greater meaning - and therefore better results to the user. 

Want to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of Hummingbird?  Our friends over at Search Engine Land have the low-down.



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