Jeff Pickle

Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm – The Five Ws and the one H

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

hummingbird Who made the change? Well, users drove the change essentially. Google has said that users are making more and more lengthy and complicated search queries. In addition, mobile users are using voice search increasingly.

What does Hummingbird want? Google has said that the Hummingbird algorithm is looking at the meaning behind words. A more semantic approach instead of matching a few words on the page. In order for a semantic approach to work, Google has to rely on its knowledge base to find the relationships between “search entities”.

When was the change made? The algorithm was implemented around the beginning of September 2013. Amit Singhal, a Google vice president, announced the new search algorithm calling it the biggest change to the company’s search engine since 2000.

Why is the Google algorithm called Hummingbird? Just like the new Google Algorithm, a hummingbird is quick and precise. And just like the new algorithm, a hummingbird keeps incredible volumes of information stored about the best sources to target with incredible recall.

Where does Hummingbird get its information? The Google Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base actually derived from three sources: the CIA World Factbook, Freebase, and Wikipedia. Google has put together a graph or network of the relationships between all of the concepts in these sources and integrated it with their many other search ranking factors.

Wikipedia is the best example of a knowledge base. It is the largest knowledge base the world has ever known. Google taps into this vast network of information to link concepts that it can use to supplement its own gigantic database of user behavior and queries.

How does Hummingbird work? There is nice little tool called the Wikipedia Miner that can give us an example of how Google uses the Knowledge graph/Wikipedia. I’ll use the example of “shredder” as a search query. In this example, I am looking for a “shredder”, but Google does not know what I want exactly since the word can take on different meanings.


“Shredder” can mean something entirely different from my search query intentions. In the screenshot above, the tool  shows that “shredder’ can also be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or a computer chess software program.

Google takes this information and integrates it within their search results. The first page of Google search results for the keyword “shredder” is below.

shredder serp

To match user intent, keep in mind how concepts and terms  connect with one another and how this affects the relationship with target keywords.



One Trackback

  • By Google Artificial Intelligence and Hummingbird on February 19, 2014 at 7:48 am

    […] a previous post, I stated that Google named its new algorithm after a hummingbird because a hummingbird is quick and precise and has the tremendous ability to recall information […]