Google Hummingbird Update

The code name “Hummingbird” stands for a wide reaching and foundational Google search algorithm update. It was released in Sept 2013

What is the Google Hummingbird Update?

On the 15th anniversary of Google’s search, they announced on September 26 2013 that a comprehensive update for their search algorithm had been developed and that a new search algorithm called Hummingbird has become the foundation of the entire Google search as of August, 2013.

What makes this algorithm update so special?

The Google Hummingbird Update sets itself apart from other Google algorithm updates, in that it is a brand new search algorithm, at the foundation of Google’s search. Google updates like the Panda Update or the Penguin Update have been significant updates to Google’s ranking algorithm – which itself is a part of the search algorithm.

The most recent time such a substantial change to any part of Google happened was in 2010, when the Google Caffeine Update was introduced. It is quite likely that the last time that Google’s search algorithm, as a whole, was changed in such a significant way, as happened with the Hummingbird Update, was back in 2001.

What is the goal of the Hummingbird Update?

The goal of Google’s new search algorithm “Hummingbird” is to be able to better interpret the user’s search requests and thereby further increase the quality of the search results.

The code name “Hummingbird” is supposed to indicate that the search results will be both quick and precise.

The name comes from being precise and fast.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

The new search algorithm is able to (better) interpret the entire search request, instead of only searching for single words within the search query. This enables Google to (better) understand the intentions behind a user’s search request, as well as the focus/context of an entire text document (for example a website). Both of these factors put the focus on an improved version of the search results.

Hummingbird impact all types of queries we get but far more effective on these long queries we get now.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

Or, in the words of Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land:

Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.– Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land

– Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land

How do you know that the Hummingbird Update is at work?

According to Google, the Hummingbird Update should especially improve the conversational search, which is using your voice to define the search request. For spoken search requests, the entire search request of the user (the spoken sentence) is interpreted at a higher level as well and more relevant results are returned. This means that the search results are sorted differently than before, which results in more accurate answers.

Hummingbird helps with complex queries but also impacts over 90% of searches worldwide now.– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

– Amit Singhal, Google VP Software Engineer

Example of search results BEFORE and AFTER the Hummingbird Update (according to Google):

  • a search for [pay your bills through citizens bank and trust bank] before the Hummingbird Update returned the homepage for the Citizens Bank ( as a result. After the Hummingbird Update, the user now gets the corresponding informational page on Citizens Bank for the same search request (

Does that mean the other Google Updates are now useless?

No. Seeing how the Hummingbird Update was developed as an entirely new search algorithm, which the entire Google search is based on, the ranking algorithms like the Panda Update and Penguin Update filters, as well as the EMD-Update or the Page Layout Algorithm Update are surely either incorporated into the new search algorithm or baked right into it.

Video explanation with Amit Singhal / Tamar Yehoshua on this topic

Additional information on the subject: