Say Goodbye to Pandas and Penguins, Wave Hello to Google’s New Hummingbird!

google cake

During Google’s 15th birthday party on September 27 they announced “Hummingbird”, the most significant algorithm update they’ve made in years. Google decided to name it hummingbird because of its fast and precise ability to return better search results. “Hummingbird is not a change to parts of the old algorithm like Panda, Penguin and other updates. It is an entire replacement, but still continues to use some of the same parts of the old algorithm, like Penguin and Panda.” – Danny Sullivan. The algorithm change relates to the technology called the Knowledge Graph.

The knowledge graph revolutionizes search by not just using traditional keyword search. It actually tries to understand facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected. By mapping the relationships between many things, Google can use this information to answer more complex queries by users. For example, look at the comparison of a “hotdog vs hamburger”:


“Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.” – Danny Sulivan

For example: “What is the closest pizza place in Toronto?” Traditional keyword searches would return results from pages matching “pizza” and “Toronto.” Whereas Hummingbird focuses on the entire sentence and attempts to fully understand the meaning behind all the words instead of just keywords. Hummingbird would pinpoint your actual location to map out the closest pizza in your area or realize that by “place” you actually want a physical location that sells pizza or that pizza is a popular food choice in many restaurants throughout Toronto. Knowing these things will make searching more personable and human-like and will provide results matching the meaning, rather than just specific keywords.

How Will This Effect Local SEO?

There has been a lot of controversy over the new hummingbird update and how it will effect local SEO and SEO as a whole. Prominent SEO experts are saying their ranking has drastically dropped and Google is killing SEO, though this is far from the truth. If you are engaging in spammy black hat tactics in order to increase your ranking, then YES you have every right to hate on Google and its new algorithm. However, if you have always provided white hat, original, valuable content, and high-quality and relevant websites are linking to your own site, your search engine rankings should be solid.

Danny Sulivan, Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Land puts it this way:

“No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.”

The best way to ensure you are making the right SEO decisions is to put your feet in Google’s shoes. Let’s be honest, working against Google is not going to get your business anywhere, like the old saying goes If you can’t beat them, join them.” Google is trying to change search for the better. Their goal is to truly understand what their users are searching for instead of just picking out keywords. We’ve all had frustrating experiences searching for something on Google and seeing results that were not even close to what we were looking for. As Google gets closer to fully understanding what its users are thinking, it gets better at providing the right search results.

Amit Singhal, Google's senior VP of search
Amit Singhal, Google’s senior VP of search

SEO consultant and president of Archology, Jenny Halasz believes SEOs have become so keyword focused that they’re putting emphasis on the wrong things, explaining that many are, Trying to reverse engineer data that really isn’t actionable. She thinks SEO should be less about keyword data and more about customer engagement.

“People who’ve been doing things like looking at their bounce rate on a page and trying to match the people who bounced to what they searched are missing the forest for the trees in my opinion. It’s not the specific keyword they used, it’s what they were looking for on that page. Did the page deliver? Clearly not since they bounced. So what could be better about the page? Or your information architecture overall?” – Jenny Halasz

Hummingbird is going to change the face of local SEO dramatically for the better. Google users like to ask questions and expect a proper answer in their search results. Websites need to be optimized to answer those users questions, not just pick out related keywords. Implementing localized and long-tail content will continue to be the future of SEO. Google’s old Caffeine update is no longer in the picture and if you want to rank high for local SEO these days, Google will be focused on ranking sites better for relevance instead of indexing and crawling sites. If Google users are going to be asking questions, your site is going to have to deliver answers to those questions.

Mobile optimization is on the rise and, very similar to Apple Inc’s “Siri,” Hummingbird is a clear step toward improving the intelligence of Google with regard to more complex, conversational search queries. You can soon stop treating Google like a robot and can start asking it questions like a human. Users don’t have to search “Pizza in New York” and spend an hour searching for best and closest pizza joint in their area. They  can now ask Google “What is the best pizza in New York” and be provided with the closest highest rating pizza restaurant in their area. If you optimize your website for the long tailed keywords such as “Serving  the best Pizza in New York” as opposed to “New York Pizza” you can expect to rank higher in Google’s new search results.

Personalized and localized results with more emphasis given to social signals is the way of the future for search. If you can adapt to these changes, your ranking will slowly rise to the top. Don’t optimize your site for today, optimize your site for the future.

Has your website been impacted by the recent Hummingbird update?

Do you see any advantages or disadvantages in Google’s new algorithm?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!



FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm – Danny Sullivan

Google’s Hummingbird Takes Flight: SEOs Give Insight On Google’s New Algorithm

Hummingbird: Move Over Caffeine, Hello Sweet Nectar – Kate Gramlich Roumbos

What Does Google’s Hummingbird Update Mean For Your SEO Efforts? Nothing – Joshua Steimle

What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means For You – Denis Pinsky

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About Joel Popoff

Joel is a Digital Marketing Manager at Powered by Search. When he isn't working, he's probably still working. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.