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October 31, 2013

What is Google Hummingbird – What Does it Mean for Your Listings?

Google Headquarters
Photo Credit: brionv via flickr

Most people have never heard of Google’s new search algorithm – Hummingbird. The majority of those that have come across the term have no idea what it actually is – or how it may affect them. Here are a few facts about this new search engine algorithm and why you should be aware of it – but not worry about it.

If you own a website or a blog – any website or blog that you hope to have listed online – then you are likely involved in SEO (search engine optimization.) This is a general process by which you make the individual pages on your site as attractive to Google as possible. The need for this will never go, but too many people write their web pages and blog posts to keep search engines happy rather than their readers.

The Google Hummingbird Algorithm: For the People

The Google Hummingbird algorithm is a significant change to Google (likely the most significant over the past 12 years,) but will not make much of a change to web pages written for readers. If it is possible to point to any specific change introduced by the Hummingbird algorithm, it is that it calculates the sense or meaning of a search term.

Rather than seeking out keywords in a search term, Hummingbird looks at the concept of the search. For example, “The nearest Afro hairdressing salon to me” might appear to be too vague – how does Google know where you are? However, if you have a Google+ account with a profile stating your geographical location, then this is easier to understand.

You will normally be identified by Google when you fire up the search engine, and perhaps this is how this aspect of the Hummingbird algorithm works. Google has stated that this is a very significant algorithm change – not an update such as the Pandas or the Penguins.

A Google Search Engine as an Engine!

Think of the Google search engine as being just that – an engine. Updates, such as Penguin, Panda, LSI, and PageRank are additions to the overall algorithm, just as if you had a new distributor, radiator or fuel pump installed into your car engine. Hummingbird is not an update – it is a totally new engine.

It may incorporate all of these updates, or upgrades, but it is the first major search engine change for some years. It is a combination of many different algorithms, designed to rank a web page on over 200 different factors, each factor assessed using a different algorithm. Panda, Penguin, LSI, PageRank and so on, are simply four such factors or algorithms.

Natural Writing Rewarded

The Hummingbird algorithm change appears to have taken yet one more step, albeit a major one, towards rewarding natural writing in favor of artificial language designed to stress certain keywords. It is further proof of Google’s commitment to the reader rather than the writer.

Google wants its clients to have a good search experience, and find pages totally related to the information they are seeking. Each word in a search term will henceforth be important, not just the keywords. When you are designing your website, and writing its content, keep in mind that you should write for people and not search engines.

Google Reality – Not Wishful Thinking

As stated at the beginning, many will have detected no differences since the Google Hummingbird algorithm went live almost two months ago. Some may have noticed a drop in rankings, particularly if their pages were keyword rich with not a lot of information. Who knows! Google is always tight with their algorithm changes.

Let’s just say that if you write honestly about your subject, use your main keyword once in your title and description, and keep to about 1% keyword density in the body, then you should be OK. You must also show you know the topic – and backing up your web pages with blog posts will also help.

If you give a reader what you believe they want when they find your website after a Google search, then you will be OK. SEO is not dead – it has just turned somewhat, with a focus on reality rather than wishful thinking. You should regard your content to be a lot more important than the look and feel of your website – that’s what Google seems to be saying.

The Google Hummingbird algorithm change is not out to get anybody – it is out to improve the quality and authority of web pages based upon the full search terms people use when seeking information. That means good content offering the information that Google believes the searcher to be looking for.

The Google Hummingbird algorithm change is designed to reward web pages written for the reader. Check out Pete’s professional writing services on if you want your web page content to be written professionally and effectively for high rankings.


The Google Hummingbird algorithm change is designed to reward web pages written for the reader. Check out Pete's professional writing services on if you want your web page content to be written professionally and effectively for high rankings.