What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for Content Marketers

3 min read · 9 years ago


By Jon Henshaw, Raven Internet Marketing Tools

In September, 2013, Google announced the biggest update to its search engine in over a decade, which it named Hummingbird. If you’re like most people, you didn’t notice anything different on Google. That’s because the changes were made behind the scenes to Google’s search algorithm.

The search algorithm is the heart of the search engine. It analyzes and makes sense of billions of pages in order to provide the most relevant search results. The update included a major rewrite of Google’s entire algorithm, affecting more than 90% of search results.

The new search algorithm, like the ones before it, was created to provide better results. It specifically focuses on semantics – comprehending natural language and complex searches in order to better understand the intent of the searcher.

What do you need to know about Hummingbird? That nothing about your fundamental content strategies need to change, but that some of your tactics will be more important than others.


Think long tail

The Hummingbird update is capable of understanding longer and more complex searches. For example, it’s highly tuned for conversational search. That means search queries will use more keywords and the results will be more targeted.

Content marketers may want to consider writing content that is micro-focused, instead of writing about broad topics. For example, instead of writing about “healthy cat food,” consider writing more specific articles on topics like “the best cat food for overweight cats” and “the healthiest cat food for cats with leukemia.”

As searchers become more comfortable asking more complex questions – especially with a conversational tone – you’ll be able to capture highly targeted traffic by being micro-focused with the content you create.


Diversify your vocabulary

The beauty of Hummingbird is that the searcher doesn’t have to use one particular word or phrase get the desired result. Google can substitute a keyword based on its understanding of the query and the searcher’s intent.

So when you write articles, don’t stick to just one phrase or term. Instead, use variations and synonyms.

Using the cat food example, you may want to include related words like “meal,” “nutrition,” and “chow” (assuming they’re relevant to the article).

Hummingbird is a shift away from singular terms and a shift towards overall comprehension of the query itself. Articles should focus more on the overall meaning of the content and less on a specific keyword.


Use structured data

Part of the Hummingbird update is the ability to understand when a searcher is looking for a specific type of data.

Take, for example, a searcher who is looking for an event but didn’t include the word “event” in their query. Google is now smart enough to comprehend that the searcher is looking for an event and will display one or more events in the search results.

However, if your content included an event that was related to this hypothetical search, but you didn’t use structured data, there’s a chance it may not appear in the search results.

The best way to make ensure your related events show up in search results is to use structured data. Structured data, like Schema.org microdata, correctly communicates specific types of data to Google. There are many types of structured data, including formats for movies, reviews, books and much more.



Hummingbird presents the opportunity to create content that is more focused on a searcher’s true intent. Writing less ambiguous copy, using synonyms and when relevant, including structured data, may give your content the edge it needs to outperform your competition.

Jon Henshaw is the co-founder of Raven Tools, the all-in-one Internet marketing software for small businesses and agencies. Follow Jon @RavenJon

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