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Published on
Thursday, February 20, 2014
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Simple Guide To Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

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Simple Guide To Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

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Simple Guide To Google's Hummingbird Algorithm
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In  this post I'm going to explain what Hummingbird is, how it works, and  what you can do to help your site and content perform well in this  completely new overhauled search engine brought to you by the 400lb.  gorilla.

Back Story

When Google first announced  Hummingbird, their first new search algorithm since Caffeine in 2009, it  came as a shock to most of the marketing world. Despite that, Google  dropped another bomb, announcing that the algorithm had actually been  rolled out a month earlier, on August 30. Despite the shock, and the  near panic that ensued, Hummingbird is quite similar to Caffeine, with a  few minor changes designed to provide better quality real time results.  Many of the search elements are the same, but the algorithm puts more  focus on quality and helpful results, and offers more information  previously only available via Google's Knowledge Graph. For businesses,  that means quality is rewarded with better SERPS (Search Engine Results  Pages), and as a result, more traffic.  

What is Hummingbird?

Google's  Hummingbird algorithm is a search algorithm that relies on nearly 200  individual signals to rank pages in SERPS. Its focus is conversational  search, which answers, converses with, and anticipates questions asked  by users. Because Hummingbird's focus is on semantic 'conversational'  phrases, it shifts the focus of keyword results towards slightly better  quality results. Finally, it is also significantly more difficult to  influence than Caffeine, making it easier for quality businesses to  rank, and harder for spam and black hat websites to rank.  

Keywords & Search Terms

One  of the most important changes that Google brought to search with  Hummingbird is the shift in keyword importance. Where exact keywords and  single important words were mainly used to rank websites and articles  before, Google now uses semantic phrases, questions, and phrases of  speech. Essentially, long tail keywords are now a good deal more  important than they used to be.  

For example:

Panda: "Coffee Shop Baton Rouge"  

Hummingbird: "Where can I find good coffee in Baton Rouge?"

The  result is a search system that features results based on questions,  rather than keywords. You can also note from the screenshot that Google  includes hyper localized results in the form of maps showing Google Plus  Local Pages results, and also shows the business reviews in search, a  markup that most definitely increases click-throughs for quality  businesses.  

Because Google uses actual keywords, synonyms, and  search phrases, it is important to integrate all of these into a keyword  strategy. Google's Keyword Planner is an excellent resource for looking  up and finding keyword recommendations based on single keywords.  

The following points are a basic keyword checklist for Hummingbird.  

·                     Research Synonyms and Use Them

·                     Use Long Tail Keywords and Semantic Phrases

·                     Aim For Low Density

·                     Quality First

While  it is possible to utilize dozens of different synonyms and phrases,  they should always remain semantic and should not affect the quality of  the page in any way. One of the easiest ways to utilize search phrases  is to integrate them into the page as headers or quotes, as though  spoken or asked by the reader.  


SEO has always  been about content, but while content was 'King' in Caffeine, it is more  like one of the leading members of a ruling body of parliament in  Hummingbird. Content is still incredibly important, but quality and  helpful information is now more important than length or a number of  keywords. The most important goal is to make the content readable and  informative for humans rather than search engines.  

Markups & Authorship

Markups  are an incredibly important but often overlooked part of SEO. Anyone  who wants to rank well in Hummingbird should pay attention to their  markups, indexing, attributes, and other search engine entities. The  idea of markups is to make it as easy as possible for Google to search  and index. Obviously, the more easily Google indexes content, the better  it comes up in search.  

Site Maps - Site Maps  help Google to find and index individual pages. These are relatively  easy to set up because there are multiple apps and websites dedicated to  creating them.

MicroData - Pages can use  specific Meta markups to tell search engines exactly what attributes  their content is about. The process involves extra tags to help Google  see what the page is about by including microdata markups like  itemscope, itemprop, etc. is one of the best free resources  for finding individual markups based on the type and location of  content. Some available markups include events, music information, and  movie information.  

Authorship - Authorship is a  markup that literally adds the author’s Google page to search results.  It is valuable to businesses because it increases the perceived impact  of the writer. Showing the authors name, face, and Google + follows in  search improves the credibility and click-through rate of the author.

While  Google did drop the number of 'authorship' results appearing in search  as of the start of January 2014, it is still an excellent addition to  any blog or content that would normally have an author. Check Google's  guide to adding Authorship here.  

Reputation & Social

Social  signals are another huge difference between Hummingbird and Caffeine.  Some reports even suggest that positive shares and links from Facebook  and Google Plus could affect SERPS as much as three times more than Page  Rank (PR). While only Google knows the exact rate, it is still  important to establish a positive online reputation via social sites  like Google +, Facebook, and Twitter. Instagram, Tumblr, and other  networks are also good for social reputation, but have less impact than  the three main networks.  


Links have long been a  factor in increasing PageRank, but one of Google's recent updates to  Hummingbird actually makes it more difficult to do so. Most links from  guest blogs are no longer applicable towards the Page Rank of a website,  which promotes higher quality backlinks and articles on blogs. However,  backlinks from guest blogs are still useful for gaining traffic and  creating natural links. Consider the following rules when posting guest  blogs for SEO:  

·                     Use Authorship

·                     Focus on Relevant Blogs with Higher Traffic

·                     Use Meaningful Anchor Text In the Body of the Blog


Google  loves quality results so make sure your website is as fast as possible.  While you don't want to sacrifice features for speed, it is always  better to have a faster website. However, a number of sites that are  quite slow actually do rank, so this won't affect your search results at  first, only the amount of time that each person spends on the page.  

Mobile Optimization

Google  Hummingbird is all about mobile search, so if your website isn't  responsive, then it has to be mobile optimized. Make sure that the site  comes up quickly and looks good on tablets and phones, because experts  suggest that at least 40% of search is coming from mobile devices.  


Google's  Hummingbird algorithm focuses on quality content.  As a result, anyone  who is producing content with humans in mind shouldn't have anything to  worry about.  

·                     Uses Dialogue Based Natural Search Phrases

·                     Keywords & Their Synonyms Are Important  

·                     Natural Links from Meaningful Anchor Text  

·                     Use Meta Data, markups, And Rel- Markups to Make Search Easier

·                     Establish Social Authority through Sites & Authorship

·                     Create Content for Humans

Essentially,  Google's Hummingbird is more beneficial than harmful to businesses,  mainly because it focuses on quality, brings up localized results, and  uses social signals to reward businesses for popularity with customers.


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Jeremiah Smith
Jeremiah Smith

Jeremiah is Chief Executive Officer at SimpleTiger, responsible for high level vision, team growth, partnerships, and revenue generation as well as sometimes consulting clients directly.

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