Hummingbird: Google Answers Your Questions, Anticipates What You Want to Know

October 16th, 2013 by Kendall Finn

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Google’s most recent algorithm update, Hummingbird, or as some are calling it, the silent update, snuck it’s way into our lives under the radar a few weeks ago. The update was revealed at a celebratory meeting⏤hosted in the legendary garage that Larry and Sergey rented when Google started⏤commemorating the 15-year anniversary of Google’s founding. Although we don’t know much about how the update works (Google wouldn’t release the technical specifics), we do know that it will affect 90% of searches worldwide.

You may have noticed that Google has gotten better at offering up direct answers to long, complex questions. This update was the most noted change and will allow Google to quickly parse full questions instead of parsing word by word. It will also allow Google to identify and deliver answers to those questions from the content it’s indexed. Other noted changes were updates to Google’s Knowledge Graph that allow for comparison questions and push notifications for Google on iOS. With more people speaking into their phones for searches, Google needed to come up with a new algorithm to turn this process into a more natural conversation and even more accurately anticipate the answer you are ultimately searching for.

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If Google is using information presented on your site in its Knowledge Graph⏤Google’s encyclopedia of 570 million concepts, or any other display of info on its search engine results page⏤it means that it trusts you so much that it is willing to quote and/or paraphrase your information to searchers. While PC World dubs it to be “poaching pageviews” from the actual websites that are answering our questions, our belief is that it is either an indication of the strength and authority of your site, or that it will help boost such in the long run. The update was less focused on adjustments to SERPs when people are searching for products and services to purchase and more geared at answering questions. Google did say that this was the biggest overhaul to their engine since the 2010 “Caffeine” update (which was focused on speed and including social network results into search).

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How will this update affect you?

The algorithm was silently put into place weeks ago, so if you have not already noticed any significant differences in your rankings, you probably will not see them from this Hummingbird  update. It is probable that as you search, you will not notice a huge difference in search results, especially for small businesses. Instead, you will be able to ask Google specific, complex questions and receive a relevant answer.

Share with us in the comments any interesting shifts in your rankings, or any interesting tricks Google seems to be throwing your way when you search!