On the 27th of September Google announced the launch of Hummingbird, the biggest update to search algorithms since 2010. However, technically Hummingbird isn’t an update; it’s a new algorithm entirely, and although it was announced less than a week ago, it has been quietly working for around a month. Essentially, Hummingbird is designed to respond more accurately to conversational search queries, focusing on semantics and context rather than keywords.analytics

Hummingbird is expected to affect around 90% of worldwide search results and is set to reform Google’s search process for modern consumers, as users continue to use much more complex, prose queries when using devices such as smartphones and tablets. As Google have worked hard to introduce the update quietly and efficiently, there have been no extreme modifications noticed as of yet. However, experts are predicting a considerable shift in SEO practices as the significance of single key-phrase targets is diminished.

While Hummingbird continues to use many traditional rules and filters, the update is comparatively unique as it utilizes Natural Language Programming concepts to a higher level than ever before. By harnessing NLP, Google can ensure that the entirety of a query is answered in the search results. These updates are expected to create substantial changes in search results, particularly when considering mobile SEO, as long tail keywords are increasingly prevalent and are generally higher quality compared to short tail phrases.

Hummingbird is a major update to the algorithm used to improve results for ‘conversational’ search phrases, popularly referred to as ‘Semantic Search’. The intention is that Google will be able to recognise the intent of a search, rather than keywords being used. For example, if a search read ‘’how do I get nail polish off my clothes’’ pre-Hummingbird Google would return results focused on the keywords ‘nail’, ‘polish’ and ‘clothes’ which would not necessarily answer the search question. With the help of newly acquired NLP, Google can place greater emphasis on other words in the query such as ‘how do I’ ‘nail polish’ and ‘my clothes’, which would more likely generate results that would answer the search question.

The Hummingbird update also works with Google’s new voice activated features. When using Voice, users are able to search without any keywords as the search device remembers the context of the conversation. If ‘how old is the Queen’ was the first search, a second search of ‘where was she born’ would receive search results for the Queen’s birthplace. Hummingbird is another step towards better search results across all devices, 4G, Voice Search and Google Glass.

Rankings are predicted to oscillate over the coming months; however, experts also expect to see an increase in structured data in search results which will answer queries directly on the search results page. The next task for any SEO company is to strike a balance between providing relevant and useful data without providing so much information that searchers will have no need to click through and become visitors. So far it appears as though brands will remain unaffected, as relevant and interesting content is still. As always, genuinely helpful sites will benefit, while poor quality sites will suffer.

Google have always strived for utmost accuracy in their search results, and the Hummingbird update is a continuation upon that; the new algorithm was designed to be ‘precise and fast’. Hummingbird is the natural progression in search processes, in the first case providing intelligent, accurate and relevant data results, and secondly enhancing the way that we search for a better, overall user experience.