What’s Next for Google After Hummingbird?

Google HummingbirdBy guest author, Jake Magleby

For its 15th birthday Google gave itself a present — a brand new search engine algorithm. On September 27, 2013 Google announced the new Hummingbird algorithm. This update caught many people off guard, although Google had already been using the new algorithm for about a month by the time of the announcement.

Hummingbird was a subtle change for those less familiar with the intricate workings of Google. But for site moderators, the change meant a lot. Basic keywords are now less significant, long phrases are more important, and sites need to focus more on becoming relevant to users.

But what else hovers on the horizon for the lord of the Internet?

Old Updates

Previous Google updates have worked to give Google a way to collect more information. To be the best search engine on the web, obviously Google wants to have access to all the information available. To do this, they have had several updates over the years:

  • 2003 updates: These occurred nearly every month and gave webmasters a reason to pay attention to the changes Google was making.
  • 2005 Big Daddy: This update gave more indexing power to Google and expanded their searching capacities.
  • 2007 Universal Search: Searching on Google with this update included verticals for news, images, videos, shopping, and more.
  • 2008 Google Suggest and 2010 Google Instant: The update for Google Suggest completely changed the layout and Google Instant was an update to help with user ease and understanding user intent.
  • 2009-2010 Caffeine: This was said to be one of the biggest updates Google ever did. It once again gave Google room to expand its index and increase speed.
  • 2011 Panda: Panda set out to penalize low quality websites that had the main intention of farming links. With this update, webmasters realized how serious Google was about shady SEO tactics.
  • 2012 Penguin: Like Panda, Penguin’s goal was seeking out shady websites and penalizing them for over-stuffing with keywords and spam.
  • 2013 Hummingbird: Hummingbird changed the way SEO was viewed. It gives a higher focus on long-tail keywords and valuable content.

Personalizing Search

Google looks to personalize search by gathering valuable information about the users. Just like a Sherlock Holmes’ mystery, Google has had everything in place from the start to get this strategy going. Many updates like Google Plus, search memory, and location-based search are used for the Google Knowledge Graph. The graph is a way for Google to turn up useful, semantic search results.

Understanding Semantics

Each update that Google has mandated has pushed it a little bit closer to the goal of understanding and meeting searchers’ needs. One way Google is doing this is by steering its users back to question-based searches. Voice searches on smart phones make this a necessary step forward. Rather than giving the results that match the search word for word, Google is seeking to give a result that is more content driven and will provide the exact answer that the user is looking for.

Human-Like Interactions

Hummingbird has made Google better at providing a more human-like interaction with users. With understanding the semantics and intent of a search, Google can turn up a result based on content instead of matching the words used in a search.

When searching for “olive oil vs. butter,” Google assumes that what you are really curious about is the side by side health benefits of these foods. So instead of referring you to a list of sites which may or may not give you an answer, Google lists the nutritional information right there on the search results page.

Google is looking to create an interaction that is as human-like as possible. Instead of just re-hashing what the user searched for, it can provide actual answers to the questions, based less on keywords and more on content.

Endless Possibilities

Now that Google has so much of this information at its fingertips, the focus is going to be getting that information to users in the most accurate, efficient way possible. The obvious next step from here is to make searching even more efficient. The more Google can understand about what the searchers want and need, the more specifically tailored the search results can be.

We can only imagine what Google is going to roll out next. The most likely option? That Google will continue down the successful path it has already started. Google will thrive more and more on meaningful content so that it can pinpoint as closely as possible what the user needs.  There are bound to be more updates along the way to ease the internet into this transition, but at this rate it doesn’t look too far off into the future.

For your sites now, make sure that you continue to produce high-quality content. Google has proven and emphasized how important this is to them. The more focused you are on answering the questions that your consumers have and making your sites worth their time, the better off you and your sites will be.

Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective marketing, sales, and financing strategies to help businesses for SEO in Calgary. He also has an interest in education and development.


  1. Excellent post, Jake. You have explained Hummingbird very clearly. As a writer I am heartened by the direction Google is moving in. At the start, SEO seemed to be all about getting at the top of search results with little consideration for the content. As we know, this doesn’t cut it anymore. As far as I can see everyone wins.

    • Andrew, I appreciate the positive feedback. As a blogger, I definitely like and appreciate the direction that Google is moving in. I think that it will really help to weed out the useful posts from the meaningless, spammy ones. All Google is doing is try to help the websites become better. Definitely a win-win situation.

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