As Google turned 15 years old, it quietly replaced the ‘engine’ that runs its search functions. They call it Hummingbird – because it’s fast and precise. Although it has some new features, most of the old Google engine remains the same. It is estimated to have effected about 90% of all websites’ rankings, but only slightly.
So what’s new with Hummingbird? According to Google, Hummingbird has changed the basis of how it searches. The old engine searched for “keywords”; the new one searches for “concepts”.
Here’s an example – suppose you searched for “closest store to my house selling Motorola TVs”. The old engine would look for web pages having the keywords; closest, store, house, selling, Motorola, TVs. Most likely, this would give you stores all over the country that have such products. But, with Hummingbird, your search would find web pages for stores physically close to your address (assuming you give your address to Google somehow) that sell those TVs.
Hummingbird looks at your whole search query, not just the keywords, and divines what you really want. This is actually a major shift in search technology that should improve Google to the next level.
What does this mean for MY website? Most likely, nothing. For sites built correctly to begin with, it may improve traffic somewhat. For sites designed around keywords, rather than for people, it could mean less traffic. Hummingbird is able to understand your questions now, so just ask Google any question and you should see the answer more often than not.