SEOs Adapt To Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

Oct 9, 2013 • 8:48 am | comments (69) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Hummingbird Not ProvidedAs you know, Google announced their Hummingbird algorithm about a month after it launched, claiming no one noticed and no one should notice. But we do think we did notice but no one can confirm that outside of Google and they won't.

That being said, clearly the search results are different since the launch of Hummingbird and SEOs will likely need to adapt.

Some forward thinking SEOs and webmasters are already thinking up what the end game for Google is with Hummingbird and how to adapt their sites to fit that box.

A WebmasterWorld thread has some really interesting conversation around what some believe the key difference is before and after Hummingbird.

Unique Content versus Useful Content

While unique content is more of a Google Panda related thing, useful content although Panda, is maybe more Hummingbird.

Google understands searchers queries differently with Hummingbird than they did before. So how can the search results not change. How can you as a webmaster change your content to make it more useful, while it still being unique, to encourage Google to show your site over your competitors.

WebmasterWorld moderator, Robert Charlton, explained it so incredibly well:

It's no longer just a single page and its title satisfying a query... It becomes a whole site satisfying a range of users. With that kind of scope, the individual referrers are both less easy to specify and less determined by the landing page itself. Actually, not so different from what some of us have been preaching.

Don't optimize for keywords, optimize for a satisfied customer from stage one of the buying cycle to the end. Is it that easy? What if you don't offer all the stages? Well, I assume that is not exactly the point.

Robert believes this will eventually lead to search results that are "less a collection of content farms and more a collection of pages created with the user genuinely in mind." I am not 100% confident.

Keep in mind, this is just one theory of many and for the most part, the search results did not change that much compared to let's say Penguin 2.1.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Barry Schwartz

10/09/2013 12:52 pm

OMG, that animated GIF is even too much for me. :)

Miguel Silva Rodrigues

10/09/2013 01:01 pm

This is definitely the way. Just a correction about this: "While unique content is more of a Google Panda related thing, useful content although Panda, is maybe more Hummingbird." -- Panda already was about useful content and user experience. I believe Hummingbird is just a more high-level way of dealing with semantics and modern types of searches. For deeper semantic processing, Google definitely needs to trust its sources. Hence Authorship is a concept that will likely gain strength with Hummingbird.


10/09/2013 01:32 pm

Yet, the best & most useful content in the world continually falls to big brands with backlink farms (a room of chimpanzees churning out a dozen articles per day for $5k a month) and places that get 1,000 likes within 30 seconds of posting even the junkiest article (Mashable comes to mind). When are you going to admit the truth and stop BS'ing people in this industry, Google?


10/09/2013 01:57 pm

"While unique content is more of a Google Panda related thing" Unproved statement. I have unique content published only (thousands of it) and suffer from every Panda, started from the first. "Google understands searchers queries differently with Hummingbird than they did before." Unproved statement. As far as I understood, Google understands searches same way, as it was before Hummingbird. They just re-wrote and cleaned up the code itself. That's why they said "no one noticed and no one should notice". "But we do think we did notice ..." Unproved statement. How do you know it was related to Hummingbird with the hundreds algo "improvements" (improvements according to Google ... I'm not so sure) per year ? "It becomes a whole site satisfying a range of users." Obvious statement, can be said after any update. Conclusion : another useless thread on WMW. I still don't have strong definition of the "content farm". Probably this is just the website produces useless content ... ??? Is WMW the content farm ?

Joseph Caltabiano

10/09/2013 01:58 pm



10/09/2013 02:13 pm

Google is doing something, regarding this matter. Remember how many discussions were about eHow after the first Panda ? Seems, that finally they took it out of the tops. But .................. it took them TWO years to do this. Unbelievable. And yes, Mashable is perfect example of Google's wrong strategy. Google features the websites with the high return %, but it appears that most of such websites are just the places for the time waste, not to get reliable information. I can't believe this, but it really seems to me that Googlers don't understand modern internet. Probably they just don't use it )

Duane McLennan

10/09/2013 03:07 pm

I think I feel a seizure coming on! Like the bird through.

Durant Imboden

10/09/2013 03:10 pm

I'd guess that editors and writers may be more useful in the Hummingbird era than SEOs will be.


10/09/2013 04:19 pm

Ok, I wasted some time to find the quote from your beloved Danny Sullivan : Hummingbird — Google says — is a new engine built on both existing and new parts, organized in a way to especially serve the search demands of today, rather than one created for the needs of ten years ago, with the technologies back then. Hummingbird - is how the parts are organized. It's about technologies. It's not about the algo itself. Algo is the same, but written the other way, using modern technologies. It doesn't suppose to work different way. Same way, just better on the code level. Programming languages changed drastically during the last 10 years, that's the reason.

Aunty SEO

10/09/2013 04:28 pm

You are a maverick of this art. What software do you use to create such wonderful stuff?

Durant Imboden

10/09/2013 05:42 pm

But Hummingbird does work in a different way: It supposedly does a better job of interpreting complex (a.k.a. natural-language) queries. As users get more used to searching with long phrases and sentences, not just keywords--something that's already happening with voice search--traditional keyword optimization (something that's built into the DNA of many SEOs) will increasingly become less valuable.


10/09/2013 06:17 pm

"But Hummingbird does work in a different way" Where did you get that ? Any prove ?


10/09/2013 06:44 pm

"Google is also making the change to ensure its search results work well with voice-based queries. When people speak, rather than type on a computer, they use more complex phrases and Google had to update its algorithm to handle that, Singhal said." As far as I understood, this new technology allows Google to understand queries better, but the algo, Google uses to return results, is the same. That's why, there is absolutely no reason to expect changes in SERPs. It's the step to the future search, based on voice queries. Not the step to provide different SERPs now or in the nearest future. Otherwise why Google makes statement "no one noticed and no one should notice" ?

Durant Imboden

10/09/2013 08:27 pm

I believe you meant "proof," and I'd suggest that you read Google's announcement and Danny Sullivan's coverage for more insights into Hummingbird.


10/09/2013 08:28 pm

The search volume is still and will continue to be for a long time in the keywords not the long questions that people type in once. Also voice traffic is not the traffic that you want to a website. They are not buyers in most cases. SEO's will continue to focus on what drives the most revenue. And that is ranking for the main terms for desktop searches. Take a look at the latest MOZ signals for ranking in 2013. They are mostly the same as always with a few tweaks to anchor text and social added in a little more. All this Hummingbrind talk is just speculation now with no data backing it up. We are tracking over 10,000 terms and the difference in what ranked before Hummingbird and now is almost the same.

Durant Imboden

10/09/2013 08:57 pm

It's early days yet to be judging or predicting the long-term effects of Hummingbird, since those effects will be heavily dependent on user behavior--and on how the new algorithm is refined and improved.


10/09/2013 09:18 pm

I have heard that before. The top signals have stayed the same for 15 years. It is keywords on the page, keywords in the URL, and links. The basics do not change much just the percentages of how you use them. What I keep seeing is people over complicating things. Maybe to sell more services?


10/09/2013 10:14 pm

I'd suggest you to read more, because obviously you see things as you want to see, not as they are. But read the first hand info, not summaries by reporters, including Danny Sullivan. Even SEO guy told you above, that there is no any evidence, that it was the main algo change. Or do you believe, that algo can be changed without influence on SERPs ?


10/09/2013 10:40 pm

"Maybe to sell more services?" Absolutely. Industry became as many industries offline - some professionals in the core are working and countless of those, who want to benefit selling services, writing about, organizing conferences and meetings, doing anything except the basic business. Nothing new ) It doesn't bother until it overwhelms the core. I just searched info about Hummingbird and all of the SERP is flooded with articles by reporters, starting from US Today and including this article by Barry Schwartz. There is no reliable first hand info, just myths and stories, based on "I hear from someone". All want piece of pie, doing a little job )


10/10/2013 12:43 am

I just can say: "Meh!". The best advice is, forget about Google and its offbeat, irrelevant and obsolete SERPs and updates. Focus on other better and accurate search engines like DuckDuckGo for example. Ignore Google and you will live happier.


10/10/2013 01:02 am

Reminds me of those flashy sites that we used to see at the beginning of the web. Barry Schwartz goes retro!

Durant Imboden

10/10/2013 01:08 am

"Or do you believe, that algo can be changed without influence on SERPs ?" No, and if you think I said that, you need to stop relying on machine translation.


10/10/2013 04:13 am

Then there is no reason to make misleading statements about "Hummingbird era", because if SERPs didn't change, then there were no SERP algo changes and there is no "Hummingbird era". Unless, as Rick mentioned above, you want to sell questionable services to moms&pops, pretending you know something unique about the "new era". Do you want ?


10/10/2013 04:33 am

Agreed. Forget Google and then everybody will be happy. Use yahoo, bing or any other search engine. Google will then understand our value.

Soni Sharma

10/10/2013 04:40 am

You are 100% right Durant.. Hummingbird is going to help editors, writers.

Khalid Irfan

10/10/2013 06:37 am

Do we have anything else than just CONTENT, CONTENT and CONTENT ?

Ashish Ahuja

10/10/2013 07:17 am

yeah hiquality links, hiquality links and hiquality links

alandot spiders

10/10/2013 08:45 am

hi thank you for sharing such a great article with us. it's a very important thing which Google needs to do.


10/10/2013 11:00 am

I have been in the top ranking for more than a month but this algo hummingbird threw my website to 5th page ,the main page of the website is not anywhere in the google searches now as it was before the upgradation of google's algorithm..Its out of my knowledge where is my website's index page/main page from the search..I can just see the inner pages.Because of this i have lost many to the customers as my website is not in the top .I am totally helpless .Google has ruined my business :(.

Rob jH

10/10/2013 11:08 am

You should have a seizure warning with that GIF

Richard Boss

10/10/2013 12:21 pm

Each and every time, After google update people give the suggestion that high quality content and high PR backlinks would be better for SEO ranking. Anything else new activity?

Mark Beavan

10/10/2013 02:23 pm

was hoping to see some movement in long tail searches for some of the content and long tail rich sites that I monitor but really did not see any movement at all. Still not quite sure what to make of hummingbird!


10/10/2013 03:09 pm

Not really. Other people aren't daft enough to cut off their own noses to spite their faces.


10/10/2013 03:16 pm

Exactly....There is no human factor looking at the millions of websties out there determining who is more unique than the other. Sure they use over 200 signals to determine that but its not perfect at ALL......its all digital.... I sell security monitoring service for a major alarm company. We're just a local authorized dealer. All of the national companies use cookie cutter boiler plates and geo target local cities by the thousands nation wide. Its all the same 'ol same 'ol stuff, just a bunch of corporate blah blah..with (800) numbes and they make no attempt to localize their geo URL other than mentioning the city's name. . MY sites boast a LOCAL phone number and address for that particualr city, and it is filled with unique text, targeting my city and surroning small towns. I have alarm permit application download links, I have tutorial videos on there on how to operate the keypad, I have an Alarms 101 FAQ page, I've got original photos of our techs working in the field, (not just standard corporate stock photos), We attended a city town hall with local police talking to the citizens about recent break ins and we posted pictures from that townhall on the site, I created a blog, I have enriched content and uniqued the hell out of it. Do I get higher placement ? Heck no. It's all B.S.

Tim Clarke

10/10/2013 03:18 pm

Hummingbird seems to be locking me out of America with "localism", although the out of the UK is full of American nonsense that is of no interest in my field. Search terms that I know work and that people actually use seem no long to work from there for me. (Although it is difficult to be sure because of "not provided". It's possible too that "social" is now being taken over-seriously by google, compared to real quality metrics like time on page, low bounce rate, proportion of repeat visitors etc that we were led to believe google cared about. - it all seems a step backwards.

Johnson Marketing

10/10/2013 03:27 pm

It's like i've been saying all along to clients.... CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT.... for years now most SEO's have focused on keywords (being one word or two) but now hummingbird has made it so that google works the way people actually think and talk... i mean take SEO for example.... no potential client is actually going to go to google and just type in "SEO".... yet repeatedly SEO's attempt to rank for that one term... why? to show how good you are? now google has made it where relevancy and social factors are more important than keywords, and tons of backlinks. I'm actually excited to see how this works out.

Tim Clarke

10/10/2013 04:23 pm

Actually I think that Hummingbird may represent a move away from content, content content. If you are upset with Google you can go and try the "Bing it on" challenge on Bing. Ahem - I just did it twice and Google thrashed Bing both times.


10/10/2013 05:47 pm

Watching all this since the first Panda I'm pretty sure the whole picture looks like this : 1. Google doesn't know how the quality content looks like. This is just too subjective. Sure Googlers can't acknowledge that and they created this myth about Good Content. Industry reporters and "know-how" sellers spread this myth around, because they need something to write about. 2. The truth is that Google features content based on popularity (the reporter/author popularity or website in general). The core of popularity is not quality, but promotion. It works this way offline (just to mention Hollywood, TV or music industry) and Google just adopted this practice. 3. And here the conflict rises. We, the industry professionals, want to produce quality content, we want to consume quality content, we hear all around about quality content .... but it doesn't pay off. What is the reason ? See paragraph 2. 4. The evolution of conflict is obvious. We're tired to hear all around about Good Content. Google will never acknowledge, that they just can't find good content per consumer query and shows popular content instead. Proof ? Sure : 1. Article above is featured by Google as quality content when you search for Hummingbird Google. Around this "quality" article in SERP are the same "quality" articles from other popular sources, written by reporters (those who write about IT, not who create IT) 2. See this : alexa . com / siteinfo / bubblews . com (sorry, stupid Disqus doesn't allow to post links) This website pays pennies for every move on it. Sure at moment it's very popular among lovers of "How to make money online" articles. This is big group of people moving from website to website, searching for the "easy money" as they call it. I'm watching this website during many months and no doubt, that Google features it more and more. Can anyone show me the quality on it ? Well, probably there are three useful articles among 100k, but the general quality score of this website obviously can't be high. Then why Google sees it as quality enough to feature it ? I don't see any other explanation besides it's popularity, based on the "easy money" model. Do you see other explanation ? Please share. Conclusion: Google hides behind the Good Content model. Reporters help it, intentionally or not. Good Content is not the king. Good promoted content is the king. You can publish nonsense, but it must be perfectly promoted nonsense. Yellow press style articles, cute photos and summaries in most cases will be of higher quality according to Google, than articles by professionals. In fact nothing new here. This is proved offline model as I mentioned above. What to do ? Well, at first be aware. Then make your own decisions, based on your personal intentions.


10/10/2013 05:55 pm

@Barry, accept my article, if you want me to post here not only when I need to promote something. Your Disqus really sucks.

Spencer Turner

10/10/2013 07:27 pm

Hey sahil, this is exactly what has happened to one of my sites. From page 1 to page 5, homepage nowhere to be found but inner pages are. I'm sure this is something that will sort itself out, I've seen it happen before, then the homepage will start to appear again.


10/10/2013 09:02 pm

If there was an organized "no google day" and everyone agreed to use a different search engine it would cost Google several million dollars a day.


10/11/2013 05:05 am

How do you "optimize for a satisfied customer from stage one of the buying cycle to the end."? How many customers visit your site daily, so how d you optimize your site for each of them? Do they all have the same query so that you can satisfy them all with the same optimized page designed to satisfy each customer from stage one of the buying cycle to the end?


10/11/2013 05:27 am

Robert Charlton is a loser, a clueless loser. He just bans those that badmouth Google acts like he knows what' going on. SEO forums are useless now, Google is killing organic traffic at rapid speed.


10/11/2013 07:44 am

It's Penguin 2.1 not hummingbird!!!


10/11/2013 07:48 am

It's the symptom of Penguin, where the page you have targeted more through links either by buying or reciprocating or free got affected. The more the page targeted will loss it's ranking for the main keywords and is being replaced by some other page. The after affect is - ranking drop for the targeted URL and you go down to 5-10 pages in SERP with a new URL that is not even optimized for the keyword take place of your main URL.


10/11/2013 07:51 am

And this is the main problem. Any link you had thought of high quality can be deemed as PAID or JUNK link by Google in next Penguin Update. Even though those links were not placed by you.

Ashish Ahuja

10/11/2013 08:01 am

yeah that's why once you start getting some traffic you need to focus on branding and authority because that is what can save you from google updates, junk links and negative seo

PM Fiorini

10/14/2013 12:02 pm

Sorry Barry, this post is really of poor quality. It says absolutely nothing. It's a non sequitur - I.e., a meaningless post. So, "Robert Charlton explained it incredibly well"...what did he explain?

Barry Schwartz

10/14/2013 12:03 pm

I guess you didn't read the whole post.


10/14/2013 04:20 pm

So no news there then.

PM Fiorini

10/15/2013 08:43 am

I did read the post. It's SEO B.S. Sorry!

Selda Kirkan

10/16/2013 11:07 am

Nothing here.. :(


10/16/2013 11:40 pm

Personally I did notice but I didn't think it improved search quality at all. In fact, I think it made search quality a lot worse so hopefully it will evolve to providing better search results which is actually better for everyone in the seo business anyway.

Rama Raju

10/22/2013 02:31 am

I shitted to Bing for last 30 days. I am based in India. Search results are non-messy and look a tad better for 95% of the queries. Only in 5% of complicated queries Google still scores over. And I can say I am happy binging instead of googling.

Tim Clarke

10/23/2013 11:11 am

Yes, the more complex the query, the more like Google is to win. The Bing results seemed more consensus / social driven. I think that a lot of people will like it, perhaps it will take off. I don't think that it's for me though.

Ahmad Balavipour

10/31/2013 01:05 pm

Thanks alot, good and brief article. but i have a question. how can i link building for my content for Hummingbird?


11/09/2013 08:55 am

Is anybody able to clarify "unique content" in a post title? Do we all have the right to write on a bit of news if somebody else has already done an article on it? Or will this be hit by Panda. Is unique content the actual body of work or the post title also? It's hard to do anything but "spin" a post title, but surely we all can write on a bit of news correct?


11/09/2013 08:57 am

racking my brain this whole Google shenanigans. I've been hit since August aaaaaahhhh My content is original but post titles may be seen as "spun" Anybody got info on this?


11/09/2013 08:58 am

(Not hit by hummingbird) I'm assuming hit by panda because it can't be penguin and it's not hummingbird dates

Andika Writers Network

11/09/2013 01:49 pm

I concur with you, Fiorini. This is total SEO B>S> I can't even believe it came up on the SERPS!

Ashish Ahuja

11/13/2013 08:48 pm

I think the post is pretty adequate, it gives link to the thread where hummingbird and its repercussions for SEOs is being discussed and gives some insight on what other SEOs may be thinking and implementing with hummingbird. As far as what works with hummingbird people are still guessing and testing, that is how all seo theories start because google holds its cards close to its chest. IMHO this post is quite adequate and I thank Barry from the bottom of my heart to keep writing and updating this excellent blog.

Adjat Sudradjat

11/14/2013 05:03 pm

With the implementation of Hummingbird algorithm optimization seo what has been done will be in vain?, Or we have to do a re-optimization?

Himanshu Jain

11/21/2013 11:28 am

Yeah Right @ashish_ahuja:disqus . If you get traffic and then focus on branding then Google would not drop ur rankings I think!


12/04/2013 03:35 am

just question have to ask and ya'll have great topic high ranking do you think _ vs - matters in SEO for landing pages ?

Zach Stone

12/11/2013 08:33 pm

I love the distinction between useful and unique content. I see a lot of content out there that people say is unique and should be helpful in driving traffic to their site, but it doesn't actually provide any useful information. Great content has to be Helpful, Unique, and motiving (HUM) for Hummingbird-

Syed Saqib

12/20/2013 07:54 am

As far as i can see, in later 2014 Google will be totally relying on quality content.

Spook SEO

01/21/2014 04:25 pm

Gotta headache after 5 minutes reading the article with that "NOT PROVIDED" words blinking on the screen :)


01/24/2014 05:56 am

yes same here

Kandarp Bhatt

01/28/2014 06:40 am

Hello Barry. Google has updated lots of Algorithm still the situation of SEO was not good. But after the updation of Hummingbird, it has brought a revolution in SEO world as well as search results. After the keywords become not provided, webmasters are practicing the spam free activities now (Mostly) ;) It is a real time change for SEO practice. Thanks to Hummingbird Algo.

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