The Effect of Google Hummingbird (Part 1 of 4)

The Effect of Google Hummingbird (Part 1 of 4)

Keywords should not be the main focus of organic search. You may be surprised to read this from me, particularly if you’re considering working with us on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)!

So, why do I say that? It’s because if you’re only concerned with getting a website to a specific page or position on Google for one (or a few specific) keyword(s), you may succeed, but you may also waste effort by misunderstanding what Google have been moving toward for quite some time now.

Hummingbird is the latest, and biggest, move toward Google ‘rewarding’ websites that work toward delivering good content and therefore having relevant authority across a website. Part of this is having “conversational key phrases” on a website, rather than the ‘old’ SEO of keywords shoe-horned into pages and paragraphs for their own sake.

So, read on to find a summary of the main changes in Hummingbird, followed by some more explanation of the reasons behind the changes, why organic data is harder to come by, and what you can do to keep your website as high as possible in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).


  • Hummingbird isn’t an update, it’s a new algorithm, which is the way Google sorts through the content of billions of web pages and other information it has so that it can return what it believes are the best answers. Algorithms are changed to improve results (make them more relevant) and speed (so your results appear quickly).
  • Hummingbird is a much bigger deal than previous updates (possibly the biggest algorithm rewrite since 2001) and incorporates them i.e. it includes Penguin (which de-ranked spam websites) and Panda (which de-ranked low quality websites).
  • There are more than 200 ranking factors in the algorithm.
  • The biggest changes:
    • from ‘keywords’ to ‘concepts’
    • Hummingbird doesn’t find the best match for the keyword, it finds the best answer to the question
    • this update is supposed to make search more about the customer experience with results that are “precise and fast” (like a Hummingbird)
  • Links, Rank and duplicate content factors (among other things) still matter BUT
  • Content is king – more so than ever.
  • Mobile optimisation is increasingly important.
  • Hummingbird is already live, but quality sites shouldn’t expect drastic drops in traffic.
  • Hummingbird won’t penalise websites that have good content.
  • “What should I focus on for my SEO?” Content. Tutorials & how-to guides, reviews and other ‘answers’.
  • Although your keywords should appear in your content, they should do so naturally, not according to a formula of ‘X amount of relevant keywords per paragraph’.

In the next post we’ll discuss why it’s thought that Google have been making these changes, and the recent significant change in organic analytics data.