The New Google Hummingbird Algorithm

Every so often, search engines need to update the way they return results in order to evolve with the changing world of search. Continuing their trend of naming new algorithmic alterations after exotic animals like Panda and Penguin, Google released a new search algorithm update, Hummingbird, in September of 2013.

What is a Search Algorithm?

Google, Bing and other search engines are constantly trying to improve and return better results for whatever search query a user might throw at them. Search engines make money through sponsored advertising posted at the top and side of the search results page. The more people click these ads, the more money they make, and the more people use the search engine, the more people are likely to click these ads. If a search engine returns better and more accurate results, more people are likely to use it. Thus, it is in these companies’ best interests to always improve the results they return.

How do search engines come up with these results? The answer is the search algorithm. This piece of the search puzzle can be likened to a recipe. There are over 3 billion pages on the Internet, so Google and other search engines need to be very particular about how they take a search term and start sifting through all this data.

Google starts by taking a search query input by the user; perhaps this user is looking for a recipe for poached pears or wants to hire a lawyer like Russ Brown. They type this term into the search box. Google takes this term and starts running results through an equation, the search algorithm, which judges how relevant each page is. The algorithm is extremely complicated and updates like Hummingbird just add a layer of complexity to this process, adding more filters to return better and better results.

All of this happens in one-eighth of a second, by the way. You can learn more about how Google indexes pages, finds results and fights spam in their presentation How Search Works.

What Does Hummingbird Change?

As the web becomes more mobile, users are thinking less programmatically about what they type into Google. Instead, they are making more and more “conversational queries” – instead of simply typing “birthday cake,” they might instead type “where can I get a birthday cake locally?” Before, Google wasn’t very good at answering questions like these; it would focus on words that it deemed more important and miss a major component to the question, such as the fact that you want to purchase this cake nearby. Now, Google is putting more emphasis on better understanding long-winded searches like these.

In addition, Google is incorporating more personal information into search results. If Google knows your home address and you start searching for something “near home” or “near my house,” even if you are across the country Google will now try to return results relevant to you.

What Does This Mean for my Website?

Although some major voices at Google are calling this one of the biggest updates yet, it has not been an overly scary update for businesses in terms of traffic loss. Though it affected a great number of queries, most of them were for more unique terms.

Big changes in the world of search are always exciting and a little scary for webmasters, but remember that in the end, these alterations are meant to make search better for everybody. If you continue offering quality content on your site, you will be rewarded.