Google announced that they recently introduced a new Algorithm code-named Hummingbird that affects around 90% of all searches. Google’s announcement touts this as being the biggest overhaul of their algorithm since their 2009 Caffeine update.
Thus far Google has been evasive regarding the details of the change. The Caffeine update was primarily an overhaul of their internal systems that improved efficiencies and speed. They are only saying that the Hummingbird update allows them to deal with more complex questions from users. That, however, would not affect 90% of all searches, because most searches are still simple two, three or four word searches, such as “Phoenix criminal attorney”, rather than the more complex “how do I find the best criminal attorney in Phoenix”.
It appears that the reason as to why Google is comparing Hummingbird to Caffeine, rather than the newer Panda and Penguin updates that were much more devastating to many web sites, is because this is a complete overhaul of their code and systems, rather than a ranking update intended to penalize sites that are not in compliance with Google’s guidelines. It is, in effect, a new search engine that is designed to replace deficiencies in the old algorithms when complex searches were used. But because the changes sneaked in, we really do not have a point of reference between how a complex search was handled in the past versus how it is handled now.
Google refers to the focus on “conversational searches” with the new algorithm, which means a user can search for a solution much like people would ask a question in a conversation.
Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that the new algorithm is affecting 90% of all searches. In fact, for all of the search phrases that I monitor, I am probably seeing less fluctuation in week-to-week rank positions than seen in the past. My take on this is that if you have not seen a huge change in Google traffic or drop in rank positions over the past month, Hummingbird probably has little or no affect on your site.