Let’s get one thing straight right up front. Hummingbird is not a new algorithm update like Panda or Penguin. It’s a new algorithm. Panda and Penguin are parts of the bigger algorithm. Hummingbird is the actual bigger algorithm. Google has been around for fifteen years now, and Hummingbird is apparently the biggest thing they’ve done to the algorithm in twelve.
The good news for webmasters who fear being struck down by any major changes that Google makes to its algorithm is that it launched a month ago, so if you weren’t hit by it Panda/Penguin style (there haven’t been many complaints), you probably don’t need to worry much about it. At least not in the immediate term.
Google announced the algorithm update at a press event on Thursday. After the event we learned that Hummingbird was described as the biggest Google algorithm change since Caffeine.
Hummingbird is to help Google understand your webpages the way it understands the data in its Knowledge Graph.
“In particular, Google said that 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,” he adds. “The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words…Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts, which may bring back better results.”
So from the sound of it, this is really just an extension of Google’s ongoing strategy to become less dependent on keywords, which does have implications for SEO, and while webmasters may not have to worry about a major drop-off in rankings like with updates like Panda or Penguin, this could be more of an ongoing struggle for those competing to get on search results pages.