Hummingbird is the biggest iteration of the algorithm since Caffeine in 2010, however it is going to have less impact immediately on search marketing than the Panda and Penguin updates. Amit Singhal, of Google, said 90% of searches have been affected by this algorithm change however it was interested that very little was said within the industry about affected rankings before the announcement was made.

The details of the Hummingbird amendments have been made below, detailing what has changed and how this impacts on search marketing strategies.

However in general terms this amendment is a step towards the Google algorithm becoming artificially intelligent. Google’s goal is to be able to serve content based on what the searcher wants. A KPI of this development is surely the number of searches a user makes in a short space of time (the higher number of searches denoting that the content is not relevant to their query) and also the number of pages a user visits per search term. For example, 8 years ago 30% of searchers would look at search results past page one of Google. Today it is only 10% and it is likely to decrease as Google improves the indexing of searches against the real intent of the search (plus making it even more significant to increase SEO rankings).

So let’s have a look at Hummingbird in detail, what are the changes and what does this mean for search marketers and website owners.

Semantic Search

So semantic search will be discussed more and more in regards to SEO over the coming years, particularly as search devices change, search queries therefore evolve with the technology, and Google and information retrieval technology adapts with this technology.

Semantic search is where an algorithm, like Google’s, retrieves information based on the meaning of the search as opposed to the matching of the content against the search term. Google’s aim is to index all content based on semantics and will continue to improve this.

So, before Hummingbird Google were indexing content by using pattern match to marry up content within it’s database against the search query.

Today, Hummingbird is more intelligent, and now indexes content based on the query intention. This includes some key elements such as the context of the search and the searcher’s requirements. For example, the context of the searcher can include variables such as the device a user is searching from, the time of the search made (locally) and/or the frequency of similar searches from the same device where Google will understand more about the search habits of a user within their context. From a better understanding Google can make a better judgement on the search intent and improve the content served in the index.

Website Content

As Google continue to improve their algorithm around semantic search, websites need to continue improving content for end users.

Providing the best content for basic brochure websites may be the hardest hit sites as a large majority are relying just on textual content.