There have been several updates to Google’s algorithm over this past year, but their Hummingbird update actually excites me! Sure, Panda and Penguin were big. They helped Google gather information more efficiently, index sites more often and got rid of spam from the results. Hummingbird isn’t just a change to a piece of the algorithm, it’s a new search engine altogether. I think it’s just a glimpse into the future of what search can and will be able to do…

According to Google, Hummingbird actually launched over a month ago, but it was announced alongside its 15 year anniversary on September 26th, 2013. It’s the biggest update we’ve seen from Google in 12 years; it’s an evolution of the knowledge graph and is intended to improve mobile search and voice search for users.

Previously, the search engine would examine each individual word in a search to determine which results should be placed on the page. Now, Google is aiming to have a deeper understanding of the words in a search and the meaning behind them. This will help in fully understanding the user’s intent, which is pretty amazing!

A search for “ice cream shops by my house” previously would have been dissected as individual words to provide the results. A user might have been shown a wikipedia page about ice cream, map results of ice cream businesses, and possibly a page dedicated to home improvement projects or activities involving ice cream. With Hummingbird, the context is better understood and if you’re signed in to a Google application and they’ve begun storing information about you as a user, they’ll be able to show you even better results.

Mobile Impacting Search

In my opinion, the infamous Siri is a driving force behind this. Who doesn’t love to ask Siri to search and find things for you? Voice search is very different than traditional type searching. It’s longer, more complex and conversational. Google released its voice search in 2008. With mobile use on the rise, and the release of “wearable technology” like Google Glass, voice search is considered to be the future of search. Hummingbird is Google’s preparation for that evolution where users interact with it constantly and verbally.  

Most people won’t even notice a change in the results, but for longer, more conversational queries, you’re sure to see better results. In fact, Google says...

“...keep asking Google tougher questions—it keeps us on our toes! After all, we’re just getting started.” -Amit Singhal, SVP, Google Search

For more reading, check out how Hummingbird is changing long-tail search, from Moz.