How Google Hummingbird Affects Search Results in Different Industries

hummingbird *

Google has introduced a new kind of search algorithm recently they call Hummingbird. It affects the large majority of searches.  I don’t want to explain it again, others did before me, let me cite a few good introductions:

“Hummingbird is all about better processing of the query, the search phrasing.” Via.

“[The Google hummingbird algorithm] takes a user query and modifies it, then conducts a search with an index that more favorably ranks documents that are written to answer questions.” Via.

“searchers have moved beyond caveman SEO queries comprised of three words to asking Google questions or long-tail queries that have semantic relevance.” Via.

“Google stepped up the competition for your audience’s attention with their new algorithm, Hummingbird and Hummingbird’s companion product, Google App Launcher.” Via

“what Google is really saying is “We will now scrape more data from 3rd party websites so people never have to leave” Once Google starts fully answering search queries, there is no reason for people to leave Google.” Via.

“The knowledge graph revolutionizes search by not just using traditional keyword search. It actually tries to understand facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected.” Via.


Thinking Inside the Box

Google itself claims that the new algorithm is about natural language and “conversational search.” They want to compete with Apple’s Siri it seems.

No matter how people assess it there is also objective proof of the algorithm we can see. There is a new kind of Google knowledge graph display in boxes on top of search results. In fact these boxes often just literally replace search results by moving them far down and removing the need to click the results below. Other changes are less obvious but have a significant impact nonetheless.

The general tendency is away from finding instances of keywords in texts to answering real life questions people use to ask.

I’d like to focus on example search results that reflect the new changes more or less evidently. For example search users often ask Google questions about their health not understanding that with traditional search they search for the question and not the answer.

Google attempts to provide the answers from now on not just find the sites that publish the same question.

What’s the difference? Until now you would often end up finding forums where someone asked the same question as you but didn’t get an answer that made sense. Google is trying to become semantic, that is understand the meaning of a query not just look up keywords.


How to Cure Google

I could locate a few examples when it comes to health that reflect obvious Hummingbird impact. A typical question would involve the “how to” phrase and then the ailment you want to go away. With the help of Google Suggest I could find examples like [how to cure hiccups] where Google tries to provide an answer onsite so that you don’t even need to visit the source.


This is what I see when I search for [how to cure hiccups]. Note that the second answer is perfectly enough so that you don’t need to click any search results.


Cowboys & Eagles

You know that to stay healthy you need to practice some kind of sports don’t you?

Google has taken care of that too. When you search for a generic phrase that happens to be also the name of a team Google will push the search results to the bottom and display a lot of information on top.


Try searching for

  • giants
  • cowboys
  • eagles

and even red socks. You won’t see much of anything else than the teams of the same or similar name.

The visible screen area won’t display any links to third party sites in most cases.

Also consider the fact that the examples do not show ads yet. Google Adwords will most likely push the last few remaining search results even farther down beyond recognition. In any case finding red socks has become much more difficult now on Google, even in case you are searching from outside the US like I do.

Google doesn’t seem to know that most people outside of the States don’t care for American football and Baseball.

The NBA is the exception here. It has fans all over the world. While the health examples show up only when not logged in I see the exact same [cowboys] results in my personal search results too.


Rising SEO Pricing

Are there some positive Hummingbird examples too? Yes, they are! To show them I chose an example close to home, from the SEO industry. I recently searched for [how much does seo cost]. Google understands the question and provides also search results based on the shorter but synonymous query [seo pricing]:


Unfortunately you have to scroll to the the SEO pricing post by Moz for example. There is hope though! Google doesn’t only display sites that repeat the question in the exact same wording.


Food for Thought

One of the most hailed features of Hummingbird are comparisons.
So when someone searches for x vs y they get a table comparison instead of search results on top. This applies specifically to food. You can get many, sometimes even absurd comparisons of two foods or food ingredients. Try searching for butter vs margarine for example. This is what I see above the fold on my standard-sized laptop:
When I click the big vertical arrow I see even more data in this table, it goes on forever:
Is there still a need to click some of the search results way below the long table? Yes, there is. The numbers by themselves do not help much. I know what to look for more or less, the cholesterol in butter is for example potentially hazardous to your health.
On the other hand both have the same amount of fat but different kinds of it: I have no idea what the differences are and how it affects me. So in the end I need to look up some real results too.
Thanks to ChaosSEO for pointing pout the comparison feature.
* Creative Commons image by Danny Perez