On Sep 26th, Google announced that it silently released a new algorithm (or set of rules) for determining what search results to return, called Hummingbird, last month. This is different from the evolutionary enhancements it's continually made over the past few years. Though some elements from Panda and Penguin are still in play, the large majority of Hummingbird is a rebuild from the ground up.
Google emphasizes that one of the biggest benefits included in Hummingbird is "Conversational Search." This expands the Knowledge Graph Google launched last May and shifts the focus away from specific keyword matching for all search queries. Instead, Google now tries to better interpret the concept or idea behind search terms, and takes factors such as landmarks, your location and relationships into consideration in order to deliver more appropriate, relevant search results. For example, if I entered the query, "Is it worth it to go see prisoners?" Google will know that I'm referring to Jake Gyllenhaal's new flick and will give me links to reviews of the movie...as opposed to links for a Families of Prisoners Support Group forum.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SITE PUBLISHERS?
It doesn't appear that many website rankings were greatly altered, as there have been no large shifts reported over the past month that Hummingbird has been live. The update to Hummingbird really corroborates the argument made in our recent Transparency in SEO #1NWebinar: that efforts should be focused on creating high quality content that is updated regularly, uniquely meets the need of visitors and is provided through extraordinary interactive experiences that entice users to keep coming back – and share with their own networks.
For a more in-depth look into the changes, check out Search Engine Land’s MUST READ comprehensive FAQ on Google Hummingbird.