Late last week Google surprised everyone by casually announcing the biggest rewrite of their search algorithm in 12 years. Unlike Penguin and Panda, which were modifications of an existing algorithm, 'Hummingbird' (named because it seeks to be fast and precise) is essentially a whole new algorithm for Google. Search Engine Land published a comprehensive FAQ with the details of Hummingbird, which seems to be more about user interface and less about reordering search results (it has actually been in use for about a month and few noticed).
Social Media Today described Hummingbird as an advancement in semantic search that attempts to understand the context of a search rather than trying to identify keywords. Imedia Connection argued that the more complex searches will result in more specific answers, which should provide an opportunity for smaller businesses to become more visible. PC World spotted a possible negative for content providers in that Hummingbird will attempt to provide direct answers and comparisons, continuing a trend that seems to poach results from content providers.
Hummingbird builds upon a series of recent changes that do affect the visibility that Google provides to web sites. The Daily Egg used the announcement to prepare a list of “do's and don'ts” for web sites in an environment where keywords are downplayed, links are scrutinized and context is gaining strength.