The Ultimate Guide To Google’s Hummingbird Update

posted by Raj Kumar Reddy February 15, 2017 0 comments

In Star Trek, Original Series season 1 episode 13-The Conscience of the King –There’s an iconic scene where Capitan Kirk talks to a computer to find the information about Kodos The Executioner and Anton Karidian.

Google Humming Bird

 The conversation goes like this.

CAPTAIN KIRK: History files. The subject, former Governor Kodos of Tarsus Four, also known as Kodos the Executioner. After that, background on actor Anton Karidian.

COMPUTER: Working. Kodos the Executioner, summary. Governor of Tarsus Four twenty Earth years ago. Invoked martial law. Slaughtered fifty percent of population Earth colony, that planet. Burned body found when Earth forces arrived. No positive identification. Case closed. Detailed information follows. On stardate 2794.7,

CAPTAIN KIRK: Photograph Kodos.


Star Trek’s computer clearly understands the Captain Kirk’s commands and provides him with the answers. Imagine if an ultimate answering machine like this one existed in real life? A machine that fits comfortably in your pocket and can answer all your questions? An all knowing virtual assistant?

Google has long been planning to build a talking assistant, the one like Star Trek’s talking computer to make search more conversational and efficient. With its Hummingbird update, Google moves a one step closer towards its goal. Humming Bird update enables us to have conversations with our personal computers and mobiles making them no less powerful than a Star Trek’s Computer.

What is Humming Bird Update?

Google constantly tweaks its algorithm to provide quality search results and to improve the user experience. Although most of those tweaks go unnoticed there are three major updates that are heavily publicized the Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

Panda update prevented the websites with low-quality content from ranking at the top of the search results, Penguin update limited the use of unethical inbound and outward links and Hummingbird update improved the relevance of search results.

Google Algorithms Timeline

Google Algorithm Timeline

Hummingbird update emphasizes more about the intent and context of search queries rather than on the distinct keywords to provide more accurate and relevant search results for the user.

How Google search changed after Hummingbird update

How Google search changed after Hummingbird update

Hummingbird update helps google to understand the meaning behind the whole phrases of search queries to deliver the better search results.

Hummingbird Update in Action

 The underlying principle of Hummingbird update is Semantic search. Semantic search takes into consideration of various variables like user’s web history, location, trending topics to provide more personalized and relevant results.

“Semantic search is a data searching technique in which a search query aims to not only find keywords but to determine the intent and contextual meaning of the words a person is using for search Techopedia

Google’s integration of Semantic search into with its Hummingbird update paved way to two of its most amazing features Contextual Search and Conversational Search.

Contextual Search:

Contextual search provides results by smartly determining user’s context based on the available information and user’s behavior.

For example, if I perform a search for word prime minister on google, the traditional search before Hummingbird update would have returned the results that ranked are for the keyword ‘prime minister’ from the prime minister’s job description to Top 10 prime ministers of all time (Most of those results would be irrelevant to me).

But if I perform the search for ‘prime minister’ now, based on semantic search Google considers my previous web history, location, and preferences to guess my intent and context behind the search query ‘prime minister’ to provide me with relevant results.

Contextual Search after Google’s Hummingbird Update

Hummingbird update determines my intent behind this search query is to know who is the prime minister and the context would be difference between the prime minister’s job description and prime minister’s name.

It’s the same reason when perform search for ‘Pizza’ google provides you the address of all the local pizzerias at the top, not the results for pizza recipe or how pizza came into existence.

Conversational Search:

I can continue the conversation I started.  If I perform a search for ‘how old is he’ exactly after the search query ‘prime minister’ see what comes up.

Conversational Search after Google’s Hummingbird Update


The search query ‘How old is he’ has no mention of Narendra Modi, but search engine takes my previous search query ‘prime minister’ into consideration to understand my intent and answer ‘how old is he’.

I can extend this conversation by asking questions like ‘How tall is he?’ and Google keeps answering my questions by referring to my previous search queries.

Google Search cannot understand the intent and context of all our search queries exactly every time. So, it still provides us with search results.

How Google’s Hummingbird Update affected SEO?

With the Hummingbird update, Google shifted its focus from matching the keywords to understanding the intent and context for ranking the search results at the top of SERP’s.

Google Hummingbird Update and SEO

Google Hummingbird Update and SEO

It means that content creators should emphasize less on keywords and more on the intent and context of the content they create.

Neil Patel the co-founder of CrazyEgg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics with the help of Market Muse analyzed over 9.93 million words of content over the web to know how the Hummingbird update really works.

Based on his findings he writes, “SEO isn’t about cramming content with keywords. But, it’s not about links, either.”

Google Hummingbird Update and SEO

Google Hummingbird Update and SEO

Hummingbird update greatly rewards the original and high-quality content creators. Here are some tips to improve your SEO after Hummingbird update.

SEO Tips Post Google Hummingbird Update 

1.Intent and Context based content:

Hummingbird update is mainly focused on intent and context behind search queries so it’s very important to tailor your content based on intent and context. Always create content that answers the users queries and provides them the real value. You can use the most famous journalism technique 5 W’s and one H to create high quality content that answers user’s queries and satisfies their intent and context.

5 W’s Stand for What, Where, Why, When, Who and one H for How.

For example, if you are local mattress selling the company, you should create content that answers questions like:

What is the cost of a new mattress?
Where can I buy the best mattress?
Why choose Air mattress over Foam Mattress?
When can I expect to get, the mattress delivered?
Who sells the best mattress in the town?
How to choose a mattress?

When you start answering these queries using high-quality content on your website, Google picks up these answers when a local search is performed and displays them at the top of its search results as Knowledge cards.

2.Long Form Of Content:

Google has been always partial to the long form of content. It believes that nice long high-quality articles will solve people problems. The long form of content is the one which has more than 1200 words.

“If a post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes than a post that is under 1,500 words “– Quicksprout

“The posts with 1800 or more words have a much higher average of linking domains” – Moz

After the Hummingbird update importance of long form of content is also elevated. Although that doesn’t mean you are should try push every article over 1200 words. But rather

  1. Create in-depth content which provides immense value to your readers.
  2. Avoid generic content by any means.
  3. Create original and more engaging content.

3.Conversational Tone

Hummingbird update’s main intention is to make the search experience more human. Google wants its users to interact with a search engine by having conversations. The way people have a conversation with the search engine is completely different from the way they search using keywords.

During conversations, people tend to use more natural language. Websites need to adapt the same tone that matches that matches their user’s natural language.

Conversational Tone

Conversational Tone

At present, it’s more important to know “how they are saying it?” rather than “what they are saying?”

Here are some tips to find and develop conversational tone:

  1. Develop your customer’s Buyer Persona and use it every time you create content.
  2. Address the main concerns and questions your customers have about your brand. Use sites like Quora to find How your customers are asking questions in your niche.
  3. Use surveys and personal interactions to know how your customers perform searches on Google.

Several observations made by SEO experts that prove, Google is already rewarding the sites that are using more conversational and natural tone to produce the content.  

4.Voice Search Adaptation:

According to comScore by 2020, 50% of all searches would be voice based. One of the main reason for Google to roll out Hummingbird update is to better serve the voice-based search queries.

To optimize your website for voice search you need do you need to understand the main difference between how people search by text and voice. Most of the text-based searches use short tail keywords (i.e. search queries with 1-3 keywords). But voice searches use long tail keywords (i.e. search queries with more than 3 words).

Voice Search

Voice Search

Voice search push people to use long tail keywords, sentences, and natural language to perform searches and with the increasing advent of voice search, it’s very important to adapt our sites for voice search.

Here are some tips that will help you to adapt your website for voice search:

  1. Concentrate more on long-tail keywords.
  2. Optimize your content for Google’s direct answers and knowledge cards.
  3. Get mobile friendly because most of the voice search happens on mobiles.
  4. Optimize for local SEO (Voice searches receives three times more local search queries).


  For content creators, keywords have always been a concern they limit the use of natural language. In order to, get found and ranked by the Google, content creators are forced to stuff their content with keywords. Hummingbird update breaks this barrier, moreover, encourages the content creator to use his natural voice and conversational tone to create content. On the other end users will receive the content that satisfies their intent and context and not the one that is stuffed with keywords and has more backlinks. So, the Hummingbird update is a win-win situation for both the content creator and the search user.

      Hummingbird update is Google’s first step towards becoming an ultimate answering machine. As people are becoming more and more comfortable having conversations with the search engines and with the increasing use of voice search I can picture the day is not far away. Until then Long Live And Prosper. (Vulcan Salute).

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