Google Hummingbird: Adapting to the New Status Quo

  • November 17, 2015
  • SEO
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Googling—this word probably symbolizes the extent of Google’s dominance. Despite presence of Bing, Yahoo, and others, the word—Googling— has become synonymous with conducting an online search. In such a scenario, it is not surprising that a Google’s algorithm update affects the entire online ecosystem as a whole.

Google’s most recent update, Hummingbird, has made waves for two reasons. One, it is the biggest update released by Google since 2001. Two, despite being rolled out in August 2013, nobody had a clue about the update until Google’s formal announcement in the last week of September 2013.

Unlike Penguin and Panda updates which focused on improving the performance of Google’s existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a major overhaul that introduces a brand new algorithm.

Hummingbird—So What has Google Done to its Algorithm?

Google has replaced the traditional keyword-matching Boolean search with patented technology that seeks to understand the search query as a whole including its context.

Before Hummingbird, a Google search for “What is the USA’s population?” would have the algorithm focusing on the keywords “USA” and “Population”. With Hummingbird, Google will attempt to understand your query as a whole and respond just like a normal person who knows the answer the query.

Further, Hummingbird will allow Google to understand supplementary queries like “What was rate of population grown in the last decade?” with the original US-centric question and come up with accurate results and answers.

The new algorithm is geared up to simplify voice searches on mobile devices. It will also allow Google to include location-based services when providing search results on mobile and desktop devices. While such features have been experimented with in the past, Hummingbird is proof that Google is betting on natural language voice searches involving more long-tail keywords being the next big thing in the world of online search.

Recently, Google announced changes to its privacy policy and sought permission to use the names and photographs of Google users in relation to on products and services that they have purchased, utilized, or rated on the Internet.

When combined with Hummingbird, this change may help you use Google to find answers to questions like “Which restaurants located near my current location have been rated highly by my friends?”

Hummingbird will also benefit from greater integration between Google+, YouTube, Gmail, and other Google products with the search engine results.

Adapting to Hummingbird’s Tune

Since Hummingbird caters to long-tail voice searches on mobile devices, it is time to ensure your site can be accessed through mobile devices as well. Ignoring mobile websites or having poorly designed mobile sites can prove disastrous for your online presence in a post-Hummingbird world.

Emphasis on voice searches and contextual understanding means that simply stuffing your web pages with keywords will not be enough. Sites with precise and specific information on long tail keywords will enjoy rankings.

Authorities, social connections and linkups, precise tags, long-tail titles—these aspects will gain more importance in a world where more and more people use touch-screen mobile devices for search for products and services online.


The fact that web surfers never noticed Hummingbird until the official announcement means that understanding its implications will be tougher for website owners. The new algorithm represents a drastic shift from the past. Hence, it would not be wise to completely ignore PageRank just yet. A consistent and sustained effort to make your website compatible with contextual search without compromising on quality or functionality is probably the best way to proceed.

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