Search engine giant, Google, frequently updates and refreshes its algorithm (believe it or not, it does 500 to 600 changes in a year) to provide better results to its users. While many of these changes are minor, some are major. Recent change i.e., “Hummingbird” is the major change in Google search since 2010 (Caffeine – June 2010). Hummingbird is not an update or data refresh but it is entirely a new search algorithm. Google announced Hummingbird on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary on September 27, 2013 (But actually it got rolled out a month earlier). It affected 90% of search results.

How Hummingbird works

Hummingbird got its name because it is “fast and precise” says Amit Singhal, SVP, Google Search. It is a smarter search algorithm. It can answer searcher’s complex questions, it can filter the answers and compare data at a glance. Mobile search and voice search are the key driving forces behind Hummingbird.

• Conversational and natural search – Google is trying to make the search process more natural and conversational. It is more effective on long and complex queries. It is expanding the use of knowledge graph for this purpose.

For example, if you search using the keywords, “Where is Phoenix?” it will show you the relevant results. Earlier, all such queries were directed to Q&A sites or it would display results matching the keywords “Phoenix” and “where”. Hummingbird can also understand the sequence of queries asked. So, if your query is “How many people live there?” search engine understands that “there” means “Phoenix”.

• Mobile and voice search – There is a rapid increase in the number of mobile users and mobile searches. According to comScore study, total number of mobile searchers in US grew by 26% between March and December, 2012, i.e., from 90.1 million to 113.1 million. Hummingbird is more helpful for mobile searchers because users can search by asking naturally over their phones by using voice applications like Siri, etc.

User can ask “Where is Phoenix?” and “How many people live there?” instead of typing. Hummingbird is making life easier for mobile users.

• Meaning behind the words – Hummingbird understands concepts and the relationships between the concepts, not just matches the keywords. Earlier, Google used to consider only keywords and displayed results that are matching with those keywords. But, Hummingbird considers all the words and understands the meaning and intention behind the words and displays the best matching results to searchers.

For example, if you search “Where is Apple store near my house”, Hummingbird will identify your location and gives you addresses of Apple stores near your place. It considers all words and understands the meaning behind it. Earlier, it would take only words like “Apple”, “store” and “house” and give you results matching with those keywords.