In time for its 15th anniversary, Google introduced a change in its search algorithm with the Hummingbird update. The change mainly affected mobile search results and the expansion of the Knowledge Graph. Google Hummingbird was introduced in August 2013 and according to statements by Google, impacts on around 90 percent of all searches worldwide. Thus, the algorithm update is of a similar magnitude as the Panda or Penguin updates. The Californians again looked to wildlife for its naming.
The Google Hummingbird brings the search engine closer to its aim of answering complex queries. The algorithm change especially affects the “Knowledge Graph.” This is a bundle of search results from different databases, which Google provides, for example, on a celebrity without you having to first click a result on the SERPs. From now on, the Knowledge Graph is supposed to output comparisons immediately after being entered into the Google Doodle.
Google named the subjects, planet (earth vs. moon), food (beans vs. rice), or buildings (White House vs. Empire State Building).
To answer the request, Google draws on different databases and arranges the data clearly for the user. What is new is that now comparison of such data is possible. After the Hummingbird update, the Knowledge Graph can now also list celebrities based on art form.
The complexity of voice searches through the Android app has been extended after the Hummingbird update. The search function learns and can make connections to previous voice search requests.
Example: You use voice search with their Android smartphone to find a restaurant.
1. Question: Where is the nearest restaurant?
Google delivers the answer.
2. Question: What are its reviews?
=> Google recognizes that the pronoun refers to “restaurant” in the previous question, and can align its results accordingly.
Google search is increasingly moving towards semantic search with the Google Hummingbird update. The search engine recognizes more complex problems. What is an interesting gimmick for users, can have negative consequences for webmasters.
If, for example, a webpage has managed to rank at No. 1 for the comparison between oil and butter, the expansion of the Knowledge Graph can now result in users no longer clicking the organic search results, but Google’s compiled information instead. The result would be an enormous traffic loss at worst. With the increase of the Knowledge Graph in size, less space remains for the organic SERP listings which are in positions below the top 3, but on the first page of the search results. When you consider that many Internet users go online with their smartphone or tablet, a search query that includes one of the above-mentioned comparisons would take up almost the entire screen.
In addition, the Google Hummingbird is always a problem for webmasters and SEOs if their businesses are directly affected by the extensions. At the beginning there were comparisons between food, buildings, and planets. But what will happen once Google starts comparing products with one another and uses data which was provided by participants of Google Shopping, nobody can foresee. The more structured data Google receives, the more the search engine provider can provide and compile its “own” search results. And the scarcer will become the space for results on the SERPs, which is additionally limited by AdWords ads or product listing ads.
It is also conceivable that a refinement of the search algorithm has the side effect that spam measures will be recognized more accurately by Google’s anti-spam team.