Hummingbird is Google’s largest official algorithm update since 2001, affecting 90 percent of search queries.

Google’s senior vice president of search, Amit Singhal, officially announced on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, that a new search algorithm called “Hummingbird” had been released within the previous month.   The company did not reveal many details on the release in the press conference, but did indicate that the algorithm is currently affecting 90 percent of all search queries—making it the largest algorithmic update since 2001.

What do we know about Hummingbird?

This update reflects the evolving nature of search engine use.  Fewer people are searching in a traditional “Boolean,” or keyword-based manner.  For example, rather than just searching the word “plumber,” individuals are now using terms like “who is best plumber within 10 miles” to search for a plumber.

Voice search has influenced this change significantly as many individuals speak to their mobile device when performing a search.  Google is now considered to be a source that can answer entire questions, not just find content containing a simple keyword.  Hummingbird is meant to improve the results to question-based search queries.

How does this compare to Penguin or Panda?

According to Danny Sullivan of, “Panda, Penguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm but not a replacement of the whole… Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda.”

Penguin and Panda were intended to clean up search results and eliminate spam.  Hummingbird is meant to improve Google’s ability to answer searchers questions based on the meaning of the words.  Rather than pulling up search results that simply contain words in the original search query, Google is aiming to provide search results based on the meaning of the search entered.

What does this mean moving forward?

Website owners should closely monitor the organic traffic their site is generating.  If your site didn’t see a significant drop in traffic during September, you may have gotten through the initial release of Hummingbird unscathed.  However, Google has been known to release major algorithm updates and continue to tweak and adjust them in the following weeks and months.  More updates to Hummingbird can be expected as Google monitors how the algorithm performs.

Hummingbird is also another push by Google to improve online content.  Websites that provide great content and answer common questions within their industry will be rewarded by the release of Hummingbird.  The phrase “content is king” continues to be true today and will be an important concept for web owners to grasp as the search engine continues to evolve.


Colton is the former Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He was part of Boostability for over 8 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.