Hummingbird: Google Rewrites Search Algorithm

Sep 30, 2013 • 9:10 am | comments (94) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google PageRank & Algorithm Updates

Google HummingbirdOn Thursday, Google had a press event to announce new changes they have been working on in search, as well discuss the progression over the 15 years of their existence.

Part of that was to announce that they have rewrote their search algorithm for the first time in about twelve-years. They call it Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is just what they code-named the rewrite. The algorithm itself is almost the same, but I assume cleaned up and rewritten to be faster and more accurate.

Google said they rolled it out about a month ago, according to Danny Sullivan, "Google started using Hummingbird about a month ago, it said. Google only announced the change today."

I suspect that is what we've been seeing with the 9/12, 9/4 and 8/24 possible updates that Google would not confirm. Of course, I can be wrong and it can be unrelated but it does seem very suspicious that Google would not give me anything on the record and then this was announced, overlapping those three updates.

So what happened with PageRank, Penguin, Panda, and the other algorithms? They are still valid and working. Danny explained:

Panda, Penguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Think of it again like an engine. Those things were as if the engine received a new oil filter or had an improved pump put in. Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some of the same parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda

I scanned all the forum threads on the topic and learned nothing more than what Danny had in his article. I did however spot one thread at Hacker News where Google's Ryan Moulton is taking feedback on bad example search results.

He told people to let him know about issue and an easy way to do so is look at your search history. He did however add this:

Looking at it from the inside working on search, I see the returns as actually getting bigger and bigger. As Google gets better, people get more confident in issuing more complicated queries, which ups the bar again for the types of things search has to be able to do.

The main thing, the Hummingbird algorithm is major but Google did not want or expect anyone to notice it. I think we did notice it back earlier this month and/or late last month. Google will not confirm that. If you think you noticed something this weekend, it is not Hummingbird directly related.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld, Black Hat World, DigitalPoint and Hacker News.

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09/30/2013 01:20 pm

I'm really trying to steer clear of getting traffic from Google it's so up and down all the time and solely relying on Google sending you traffic will give you a heart attack. I'm currently looking at alternate methods and there are some good ones, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest to name a few you have to think out of the box on how to attain traffic but its definitely there. I have have a 2 week old website that's gone from average 4 online users to a steady 600+ users online just through getting traffic from the 3 big dogs only thing is the ctr on my ads is slightly lower than search traffic which is to be expected. Keep going!!!


09/30/2013 01:36 pm

Thanks to Humming Bird, if thats the change they made then iam very happy. Yesterday i had my highest income in my business :). The reason for my success is "never listen to what google or seo gurus/experts says".


09/30/2013 01:47 pm

I was under impression, that Stephen Hawking won the Nobel prize, but decided to double check and typed into the Google : Stephen Hawking Nobel prize It took me twenty minutes to get precise information. I had to dig some forums where strangers had vague talking. Some old articles hosted by media giants. Twenty minutes ! It was about a week ago, so Hummingbird engine was in already. Made same search again today - different results, less time required to get correct information, but again - bunch of top results are totally useless. Article titled "BREAKING: Stephen Hawking has Nobel Prize revoked in midst of doping scandal" was featured by Google and especially caught my attention. It's kind of not smart joke article with a lot of shares and obviously popular on reddit. Totally stupid, totally unrelated and even can be considered as offensive. Yeah Google, this is what the searcher needs, googling : Stephen Hawking Nobel prize Googlers, you did another poor job.

Roie S

09/30/2013 02:51 pm

The biggest change is probably the "new" knowledge graph aiming to make Google an answer engine and not merely a search engine. Too bad sites who actually compiled the answers will not see traffic for their efforts. Would be interesting to see Wikipedia's stats since the launch of the knowledge graph - i suspect it dropped since Google scraped most of their content - as well as the rest of the web.


09/30/2013 02:54 pm

By penalising sites who may have participated in building links (or may have just been caught in the cross-fire) they've effectively fallen back on old and dated sites which have never done any SEO, and huge editorial/non-commercial sites which are ranking based upon purely domain authority rather than any actual in-depth knowledge of the particular niche.

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 03:29 pm

I Googled :-() "Stephen Hawking Nobel prize" and his official website (an interior page) popped up on #23 - probably because it mentions "I would have got a Nobel prize" twice. YAHOO it was #3 What was predominant on PG1 of Google was major websites. Seems like even tho Google has introduced yet another of its animals, it has yet to instil any logic or common sense in its search. Maybe Google should name its next insignificant and bogus fix, worm or bug or cockroach.


09/30/2013 03:31 pm

I believe it's because they traded relevancy for popularity.

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 03:31 pm

NO, relevancy for currency ah ha


09/30/2013 04:32 pm

Backrub was pretty much a popularity contest, too.


09/30/2013 04:49 pm

I'm wondering if anyone else is getting the new information that Forbes apparently got in an update from Google PR saying that Hummingbird has been running for "a few months." Barry can you get a confirmation on the length at all? Thanks!

Barry Schwartz

09/30/2013 05:07 pm

Danny Sullivan was told first hand it was one month ago.


09/30/2013 07:14 pm

your right. wot ever they name it this is how it works

Dianne Hernandez

09/30/2013 08:07 pm

I noticed a lot of Domain Crowding on the SERPS this past month. Could it be a possible effect from the Hummingbird roll out or is just coincidence? My ranking dropped from #4 to #14 due to two large company domains dominating the first page. One company occupied 4 slots with the same domain and another occupied 5 slots! This pushed my site all the way to the middle of the second page. I'm experiencing this with several of my targeted keywords. Google keeps trying to make their SE better but I'm not too sure about that. How does offering only two website on the first page of a search make that for a better user experience? Has anyone else noticed this problem?


09/30/2013 08:31 pm

Right now I'm searching something related to Javascript and the first spot in SERP is the 2006 thread from I'm curious, would Ryan Moulton and other Google engineers use information from 2006 to code Google algo ?

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 08:37 pm

What Google animal killed your rankings Barry?

Barry Schwartz

09/30/2013 08:38 pm

Interesting. My traffic has not changes much according to Google Analytics. Interesting.


09/30/2013 08:40 pm

Surprisingly BBC wrote an article on this

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 08:42 pm

Never, ever give Google products any credibility - Here is proof of that


09/30/2013 08:46 pm

Google's vision - linguistic artificial intelligence. The rules of the game are changing rapidly, from a SEO standpoint not good at all.


09/30/2013 09:01 pm

Don't worry. Modern Google is like Kim Kardashian - always on the news, but nothing really new.


09/30/2013 09:08 pm

Haha, too true!!

Durant Imboden

09/30/2013 09:20 pm

I don't care if the engine is new or old: They need to recall and replace that Panda air filter.


09/30/2013 09:48 pm

In this case Larry Page should resign, because he was the pusher of all this social BS. Can you imagine such scenario ? No way.


09/30/2013 09:53 pm

Don't trust everything you see on the internet Alexa says his sites getting better!


09/30/2013 09:56 pm

I think Google are their own worst enemy. They are over thinking this search stuff. For the first time ever I am thinking Bings results are better now. Even though I have been critical of Google in the past I always believed their results where better. That belief is gone.

John Gatens

09/30/2013 10:00 pm

It's all about money! It's very difficult for ordinary searchers to differentiate between the paid ads and organic listings. The top three paid ads have a background colour that makes it almost impossible to tell the difference. They also show favour to commercial brand names and their own interests, like eBay and YouTube. The people who helped build Google (us) don't really matter now, so it's time to move on and find other traffic sources.

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 10:00 pm

How about Penguin? And all the other animals that run amok from their coop?

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 10:04 pm

Alexa is not very accurate. I have watched year years and it doesn't lie on the sites I constantly check. Easy way to tell, if they close their doors for business.

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 10:06 pm

Whenever the creator leaves the position, the creation fails. Microsoft, Apple, Google. The owners of Google employed the creator of the best search in the world. In 2012 he left and with that, so did Google's source of all integrity......... Facebook rules over all because of this and a few other minor issues

Yo Mamma

09/30/2013 10:09 pm

The nail got smacked on the head


09/30/2013 11:19 pm

Trust me. The only real accurate info on how a site is doing is what is in Barry's logs. Compete can be totally wrong also.


09/30/2013 11:28 pm

You mean Marissa?

Durant Imboden

10/01/2013 01:05 am

Hummingbird isn't "social BS," it's a search algorithm.


10/01/2013 02:15 am

Fine ) Just not sure why did you address this to me. Where did I say that Hummingbird is the social BS ? Please quote. Or are you talking to yourself ?

Jitendra Vaswani

10/01/2013 04:43 am

Both algorithms needs some tweaking, off page is now totally nofollow

Fede Einhorn

10/01/2013 04:44 am

Don't know if it has something to with this release as they said it's over a month since it was actually released. But couple days ago I was searching for "Uruguayan Intel support" (has to exchange a dead SSD). I was able to find the contact number right away and arrange the guarantee replacement. Today, trying to contact them again, made the same search and it was almost impossible to see the actual result I was looking for from Intel. Lots of sites selling intel parts and gibberish. After like 5 searches, I was able to find the same page I found before with just 1 search... was that improvement? And this brings to my mind the Pizza Hut example Google highlighted when presented the algorithm update....

Jitendra Vaswani

10/01/2013 04:45 am

Danny clearly explain this algo had impact about 1 month ago.

Soni Sharma

10/01/2013 04:48 am

Innovation and new things are always welcome if these are good. Google is doing great with knowledge graph. But I am waiting for more updates when user asks question and Google give instant answers for example when is next eclipse? right now it answers like when is Obama's birthday or when Hitler was born. cool.. :)

the sniga

10/01/2013 04:52 am

I think , they starting to rolling out also from past couple of weeks cause I have seen lot of changes(Getting dropped) in traffic even my key terms are in the same positions.

ashutosh rajput

10/01/2013 06:22 am

you are right Alan i always use Bing


10/01/2013 07:03 am

it seems that articles from few years ago appear on top...

Nikhil Chandra

10/01/2013 07:27 am

A move toward "conversational search" they say. Now the Keyword Not Provided and Knowledge Graph is making much sense. As for now there are no keyword data in Google Webmaster Tool going back to the date 25th September. Is it a bug or is it that Google will no longer provide us the user's search query...only time can tell. Till then, we'd make do with whatever tool we have at our disposal. Bring it on Google :-)


10/01/2013 07:49 am

one basic rule of google search algorithm is The guy with most links will rank #1 unless the competitor complains about it.

Robert Woges

10/01/2013 09:26 am

It's really difficult to understand what google did in the last few updates.They were not fully want to over write it, but they want some updates to be happen.That's the main reason why hummingbird was rolled out. For more details visit Kickstarter Clone


10/01/2013 09:39 am

The launching of Hummingbird has explained the very important methods of its work in search but not explained how it helps the website.....

William Vicary

10/01/2013 11:13 am

Are you really saying that Google Analytics is unreliable vs. Compete statistics...? Sigh


10/01/2013 11:17 am

i not see anything better. better they rewrite their panda & penguin, most buggy algorithms.

Hal Brown

10/01/2013 11:31 am

Google became the best SE available for a number of years. Now they are terrible - I search using simple common keywords and the results are page after page of ads. I get better results from

Aman Sareen

10/01/2013 11:37 am

Hmmm !!!! Google is playing now googlies tricks with bloggers and other online entrepreneurs .


10/01/2013 11:56 am

...for a few keywords that I am checking and, naturally, this in no way reflects the state of search as a whole. I saw the '...' and figured you wanted someone to finish that up for you.


10/01/2013 12:08 pm

Well...the article in discussion is about Hummingbird. Durant was making a statement connected to the release of Hummingbird and other algorithms that we all care about and you jumped in with something about social. His conclusion and reply seem pretty on base considering the topic and your statement of, "Larry Page should resign, because he was the pusher of all this social BS". Should we just assume that you are jumping into the midpoint of a conversation and attempting to derail it or that you have made a small mistake?


10/01/2013 12:10 pm

"Something that reinforces my assumption against all indicators to the opposite must be correct because it makes me feel good!"


10/01/2013 12:16 pm

I debate the point that the background is almost impossible to differentiate. And if anything, it is much easier to differentiate on Google than it is on Yahoo and about as easy as Bing (only because Bing adds the shadow on the one side; the color is as difficult to see as on Yahoo). Funny that nobody bitches about that. Barry put an article up when Yahoo changed the color recently, and no outcry even though it is clearly much more difficult to differentiate ads from organic results on Yahoo. Oh well, confirmation bias is a difficult thing to accept.

Yo Mamma

10/01/2013 12:36 pm

No, definitely not, but Craig Silverstein the lifeblood of Google SE

Yo Mamma

10/01/2013 12:41 pm

I would place higher the credibility of Compete statistics over the word of any web guy who will NEVER tell you the truth unless he posts it showing a graph of the same period and the same data. Only then would I say that Compete statistics are in error...


10/01/2013 01:20 pm

Am I talking to you ?


10/01/2013 01:37 pm

This is an open forum, you are talking to everybody.


10/01/2013 02:21 pm

But it doesn't mean that it's appropriate to reply, when the question was obviously asked to another person. To be short : no one was asking for your opinion in this case. Be patient. Wait for your line.


10/01/2013 02:26 pm

To be short: Don't post in a public forum if you don't want everyone to potentially weigh in.

Durant Imboden

10/01/2013 02:32 pm

You responded to a comment about Hummingbird in an article about Hummingbird by saying that Larry Page "was the pusher of all this social BS." So now you're telling us that your use of the word "this" was a mistake, and that your intention was to spam the comment thread with an off-topic rant?


10/01/2013 02:46 pm

The way from "weigh in" to trolling, from reputable opinion to miserable and unwanted opinion, is very short. You're on it )


10/01/2013 02:54 pm

"I don't care if the engine is new or old: They need to recall and replace that Panda air filter." This comment of yours is not about Hummingbird, but about "Panda air filter". And "Panda air filter" is the social BS pushed by Larry Page, who must resign in case "recall and replace that Panda air filter".

10/01/2013 02:59 pm

Many of my partners saw dips around the week of Sept 9th


10/01/2013 02:59 pm

If you insist. Funny how those who don't agree are 'trolling', and that the opinion isn't just disagreed with, but it is 'miserable' and 'unwanted'.


10/01/2013 03:09 pm

Well, you have a lot to learn more. Lucky you to have a lot of free time being an employee in B2B company. Use it wisely.

Durant Imboden

10/01/2013 03:11 pm

Actually, my comment was about Hummingbird, because Panda remains one of the components used by Hummingbird. (See Danny Sullivan's engine analogy.)

William Vicary

10/01/2013 03:12 pm

But you were talking about "Google Products" and not the word of Barry (which I would also trust).


10/01/2013 03:49 pm

Then probably instead of escalating you had to admit the questionable meaning of your statement ? I'm not medium to feel what was your comment about "actually". Following your logic this comment could be considered as related to W3C standards, because it was posted online and related to Javascript, because it was posted using Disqus and related to ..... put anything here. People read what is actually written by you, not what was "actually" on your mind when you wrote. There is no reason to blame us. Search the problem in your writing style. This is IT, not fiction writing.


10/01/2013 05:05 pm

That Mr. Brown, would be because companies have been built around boosting the rankings of websites, and these companies (or some of them) will preform SEO on websites that would not otherwise rank high in the results, and make them rank higher. I'm of the belief that Hummingbird will help fix this by removing the reliance on keyword driven data and focus on the true intent of the search. Hopefully, Hummingbird can filter out the low quality results and deliver searchers a list of websites that can provide the information we are seeking. No matter what happens though, Google still provides me with better results than Bing, Yahoo or any of the other SEs.


10/01/2013 06:46 pm

"Hopefully, Hummingbird can filter out the low quality results and deliver searchers a list of websites that can provide the information we are seeking." Hopefully Panda can ... Hopefully Penguin can ... Hopefully Hummingbird can ... Hopefully Hopefully Hopefully Hopeless.

Alberto M. Rubio

10/01/2013 07:20 pm

13+ years and a whole community trying to make Google to work correctly and accurately by optimizing this SE forcing good SERPS with good SEO and now they are ruining all our good work again with an other animal with even and smaller brain:D

Phil Williams

10/01/2013 08:58 pm

I have been using bing for the last month and its so much better! Believe me!


10/01/2013 10:19 pm

Hummingbird is different than the other updates. Its a totally new algorithm, the others were just updates to the old algorithm. If you have problems finding the things your looking for you might look into changing the way you administer a search. Try being more specific.


10/01/2013 11:03 pm

No, it's the same algo, just re-written. They cleaned it up, that's it. Read carefully comments they provided. " Try being more specific." See my examples below. It's impossible to be more specific. Will be easy just use Britannica. Here is fresh example : Made the search re coding. Got SERP including results in French and Spanish on top positions. WHY GOOGLE ???? WHY FRENCH ?????? WHY SPANISH ????? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY ???? How more specific should I be ?????????? Should I type : blah blah blah (english) ??????????

Linda Mark

10/02/2013 02:10 am

still from 21-8 , and nothing recover


10/02/2013 03:44 am

Amazing, everything goes very fast, more work for everyone. Here I leave a Spanish version of a related

Gracious Store

10/02/2013 05:26 am

So what is the goal or target of the Hummingbird algorithm?

Shell Robshaw-Bryan

10/02/2013 08:18 am

I spotted the effects right away and openly speculated that something had been changed. I noticed a small drop in Page Authority and Domain Authority for about a dozen or so domains i've been closely monitoring.Only a couple of points, but it was the same across every domain, it would be interesting to hear if anyone else has observed similar since mid August?


10/02/2013 12:42 pm

You're the only superhero. Others just work.


10/02/2013 01:57 pm

Google and google's animals. Google's algorithms create one mess after another and just when they think that they have made the perfect algorithm. Boom it goes down again

James Bond

10/02/2013 02:49 pm

Vringo, Google is being sued by Vringo for patent infringement. The new algorithm is a trick by Google.


10/02/2013 11:09 pm

Google is driving me quite literally mad. I'm looking at all my text with a fine tooth comb like a paranoid mad man from breaking bad, meanwhile I read this article that doesn't put commas before and after however and its doing mighty fine


10/02/2013 11:10 pm

I'm not hit by the grammar police or penguin or panda then what??? what is your problem Google???? screw you!!!!


10/02/2013 11:12 pm

I was hit August 15...still haven't recovered and still clueless why. If anybody has an information please help

Phil Williams

10/02/2013 11:12 pm

Who is going to keep on using google???

daniel bastida

10/03/2013 01:27 pm

I think that, new google product, help web improve their SERPS into semantic web. Also give us -site owners- the oportunity to create new content with under a new approach. The use of "versus" option, bring local business more oportunities for their products. New opportunities for all. Sure! Un saludo!


10/03/2013 02:37 pm

50% less impressions on my keywords, since sept 4. Yet ranking & CTR went up..

Jitendra Vaswani

10/04/2013 05:24 am

hummingbird killing small businesses

Nathon Jacob

10/04/2013 11:20 am

Hi shell, I had observed same effect for couple of my domains, Domain Authority and Page Rank has got affected a bit,


10/09/2013 09:24 am

Yupp, It has to work a lot on this as it requires the perfect understanding of queries written by the searchers and their intentions too. Isn't It Soni?


10/14/2013 02:39 pm

I have noticed that Google has also been rolling out some additional features with Analytics. I predict that we have not seen the last change to the Analytics search tool, or different products being offered by Google. Hummingbird is just the beginning? Once you replace the car it is time to buy new accessories.

Greg McMahon

10/18/2013 06:43 am

Hard to find good search results on google anymore. Always wikipedia and now a lot of irrelevant companies on first page. I have been using yahoo and bing....quite refreshing! "It's time for a change"

Small Business SEO Orlando

10/23/2013 11:16 am

August 20th update dubbed “Hummingbird” was important is an understatement., great thing to know about this post, great writing about the post...

Anonymous (Bill Creedan)

07/12/2014 08:51 am

Blame TED for Google being shit these days, they told Google we want less relative results because it would result in more diverse results.

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