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Google Announces All New Algorithm: Hummingbird

By Eric Miltsch on Sep 26, 2013

Google HummingbirdHuge news day for Google and the search marketing world. Google announced their new algorithm called Hummingbird. The name obviously conjures up images of the small, swift bird that is impossible to catch. It's also a distant departure from the classic "black & white" themes of Panda and Penguin. 

Also interesting to note, these are not merely updates like Panda and Penguin were, rather it's an entirely new computing engine. A massive overhaul to the inner workings of Google's search technology.

This is historic in that now all the talk about creating exceptional content and unique experiences will finally be put to the test. This is no longer about pure keyword suggestions and inserting them in the right places. While on-page and off-page optimization techniques will still continue to be included in the calculations to determine rank, there are newer, other high importance factors included as well.

Hummingbird will help usher in a new lexicon within the search segment with terms such as conversational search, rich data,, The Internet of Things and the widely popular (yet misunderstood) semantic web. This is where things will get interesting for website vendors, dealerships and marketing agencies. 

Typical keyword insertion techniques on your webpages and link building activities outside of your website help Internet users find things based on the phrases used in the content. Nothing special needs to happen in your content - just keyword placement. Your organic ranking is the end result of the efforts made on your site, your competitors trying to rank for the same terms, the number of results indexed and other factors. 

Hummingbird's algorithm will now help apply the core principal of the semantic web to the text on your pages: Meaning. This algorithm is going to look for the meaning, or the context, of the words on the page and their relationship to each other. (And even their relation to other factors such as people - think Google Author attribute) 

For example, instead of just searching for Chicago used cars a shopper can use more natural, conversational search phrases such as, "Where can I buy a Dodge Viper for the best price? or "Which dealership can I finance a new car at the lowest rate? Google will now be able to apply meanings - or connections - between the words within the search query. Associating words such as buy, purchase and finance with words such as car, dealer and dealership it can determine what we mean, what our intent is and plus, they already know our location. Being able to do this enables Google to deliver us even more accurate content. Content that matches our specific desire and intent. That's the start of the semantic web. (Now do you see why it has been so important to get your website organized and optimized?) ​

This is where the challenge comes into the play. Say goodbye to the default, stale page copy your website comes filled with from the website vendors. It's needs to be so much better than that!

We use conversational search in our daily dialogue when we ask friends questions. We're also using it on social media. And Google wants our search activities to be just as natural and they want these type of questions to be answered with better content - creating an even better search experience regardless of the device we use or if it happens to be a voice search.

I believe this will be one of the hottest topics for the rest of the year and throughout 2014 as Hummingbird continues to improve and mature. Watch these developments closely - I plan on staying very close to this topic and intend to be a major advocate of this change. It's a safe bet we'll hear Danny Sullivan cover this topic at DSES next month as well. 

Stay tuned. SEO, social and content marketing - or as I like to refer to it - Integrated Search Marketing is going to become really fun again. 


The good thing about being in digital marketing is that it never stays the same and you have to continue to adapt to change. Which means, you need to stay nimble and invest in testing! Thanks Eric for the update, and now I can add another thing to my testing this week!

Sep 26, 2013

Of course Brian! Sitting back and thinking we're in the clear w/regards to Google & their tricks isn't an option. Blink and we'll miss it.

Please keep us posted on your findings as well. Plenty for us to dive into: How this has affected sites over the past 30 days (it's actually been in place for the past month) How new pages/content responds to it and even how competing dealerships within the same markets are fairing.

Now the question is where to start?!

Sep 26, 2013

What I'm personally excited for is that we will survive to see computers understand humans in a way that we only ever saw on movies. The human brain is all about contextual thinking and now computers will have similar capabilities. I always wanted my own Johnny 5!

Sep 28, 2013

Thanks Eric for the information - I always learn from your points of view.
I also am very much in favor of this change. As far as I am concerned, this is 85% a change geared towards mobile and Google Glass.
I have noticed in analytics a lot of queries over the last 12 months coming in like "Ford dealers near me" or "used car lots near me" and these are almost always mobile searches.
I never saw this 4 or 5 years ago. I think it's about time Google started answering these questions better.
Personally, I'm waiting for the day when, as I travel the country, I can speak into my phone "BBQ restaurants that also have a good craft beer selection" and get a good result. We're not even close to that yet - but I bet we will be soon.

Sep 30, 2013

Thank you Allyn - appreciate the comments. Also enjoy your perspective as well, I like the way you think.

Yes, the mobile market, incl. wearable tech, will surely benefit from these changes.

Not only will you be able to speak a your query (maybe to your car's dashboard?) - the notifications could be so contextually relevant that it pings you at the most appropriate time/location.

Please keep us in the loop If you see anything else interesting happening with Hummingbird.

Sep 30, 2013

I'm really upset. I put $1,000 on the Vegas odds that the next Google update was going to be called Peacock.

Oct 1, 2013

I thought it was going to be called Skunk

Oct 1, 2013

Eric, thank you for your insight & for shining a light on this. The Cheese has moved again & you will help our stores stay ahead of the trap.

Oct 18, 2013

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for checking it out. I'll keep doing what I can to help move the Cheese faster.

Oct 20, 2013

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