• POV: Google Hummingbird

POV: Google Hummingbird

Google hummingbird is an update to the infrastructure of the algorithm designed to improve conversational search. As the full impact of the change is revealed, we will continue to guide our clients through the changing search evolution.


It is useful to understand a little more about Google themselves, especially about their algorithm and how it works.

The Google algorithm is what is used to “score” a website based on relevancy to what someone is searching for and the popularity of the website. The score itself is based on checklist of factors. Although no one knows exactly what factors are included, it is thought that things like:  keyword relevancy and page titles, content creation date, number on high quality site linking towards a page, and about 300-400 other factors make up this checklist. So, the higher the “score”, the higher it will rank in the search results on Google.

In order to improve the experience that Google offers their search customers, they make consistent tweaks to their algorithm. Some of these changes are to prevent people from tricking the algorithm into ranking a website higher than it authentically should be. Some updates are necessary infrastructure updates, some are designed to directly impact the customer experience, and so on.

All algorithm updates are given a codename internally by Google, for example Panda, Penguin, Vince, May Day, Caffeine. The most recent update, and the largest overhaul since 2009/10, has been codenamed HUMMINGBIRD.


Google Hummingbird is not just an update, but an overhaul of the Google algorithm. It’s focused on ranking factors based on a more natural and intelligent understanding of search queries.

Search users have become more intelligent with how they look for information. Users treat their search experience as more of a conversation, rather than a specific query for a given topic –  especially when using mobile devices. To put that into context, people’s search queries are more specific, longer in length and structured as if it was a question being asked of a friend and not a machine.

In order to provide valuable and relevant results to users when searches are being made, Hummingbird is extending Google’s intricate understanding of concepts rather than simply just words. The result of which is that Google is able to serve content that is more precise in terms of fulfilling the users’ needs, quickly.


In short… nothing. The same rules still apply, in that; Google is looking to reward good quality, high value and regularly updated content. As we’ve been expecting search behaviour to evolve with the continued adoption of mobile searches,  all the same principles and tactics remain the same.

Google’s offering previously used to encompass 3 simple steps:

1. Crawl – Find content     

2. Index – Store the content     

3. Answer – Provide results

Conversational search is the next stage in the evolution of search:

·         Crawl – Find content

·         Index – Store the content

·         Converse – Understand the entire query

·         Answer – Provide results

·         Anticipate – The next related search


It is important to understand how users are searching for your content. Do they query the content in a conversational way? What are the trends in your users’ behavioural and device usage?

Google’s Hummingbird update is an reminder that online behaviours are continuously changing, and for one, a mobile strategy is becoming increasingly important.

The aim is to give users an experience they are looking for; at the right time, at the right place, and on the right device. And the only way to do this is to use search insights to shape any marketing strategy, asset creation or overall online experience.

Join the conversation