Hummingbird is a search algorithm implemented by Google. Introduced in August 2013, it was used to replace the previous Caffeine algorithm, and impacts around 90% of Google searches.
How does Hummingbird work?
Hummingbird is not a penalty-based update, rather a change in the way Google reacts to different types of queries. It’s a brand new method of understanding the actual meaning behind a search query, as oppose to the separate terms within it. The use of keyword synonyms has been optimised with Hummingbird; instead of listing results with exact phrases or keywords, Google now shows more theme-related results.
Google have always used synonyms, however with Hummingbird it is able to judge context, thus understanding the intent of a search to determine exactly what the user is trying to find out. This is called semantic search.
What does Hummingbird mean for SEO?
Since Hummingbird, SEO agencies have come to understand the most important thing to offer Google is context for the topics around which a page has been created.
Google has long regarded page authority to be an important ranking factor. With greater emphasis being placed on page content, authority will become even more important, and poses to make search results more relevant.
PageRank, which looks at how important links to a page are determined to be, is still one of the major elements of the Hummingbird algorithm. Therefore it remains crucial to consider link metrics and strive for co-citations.
Whilst keywords are still significant to SEO, Hummingbird adds more strength to phrase-based queries, which essentially caters to the optimisation of content and questions that are asked naturally. As conversational queries continues to increase, mainly those conducted using voice search, it’s vital that your page content covers informational queries, navigational queries and transactional queries.