What is a Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird and How Does it Affect Searching Online?

2013 Google Algorithm Updates for Organic Search

Google has gone through many changes to its search algorithm in the past few years. They are continuously updating the formula. Sometimes, we know about the changes and can see it when we do a search on Google and other times it is not even noticeable. In September, Google announced that they had just finished releasing their most current major algorithm update and they called it Hummingbird. Before we delve into the changes, what exactly is the Google algorithm? It is a formula that Google uses with over 200 factors to determine the way that a website or article appears in the search engines, to paraphrase Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land , “The algorithm is a technical term for Google’s “recipe” to sort through billions of webpages and other information in order to return what it believes the searcher is looking for”. If you are a marketer or search expert, then you know about the animal terms for Google updates. If not, it is good to find out how a panda, penguin and a hummingbird can affect the way that your business’s website appears in Google. Let’s take a look back through these 3 different updates and how they have affected the way that results are delivered when we are using Google.


The Panda update was launched in April 2011. This update de-indexed poor quality websites. What that means is Google changed their algorithm to prevent websites with poor quality content from ranking in the search results. The update also decreased the Page Rank factor in the importance in the algorithm. It is still a part of the overall algorithm, but not as highly ranked as before. There have been smaller updates to the Panda code since 2011. In fact, Google just released an update to Panda in September that puts an even bigger emphasis on high quality content on your website in determining how it will appear in the search results. This would include keeping content fresh on the website, adding videos, podcasts, ebooks and white papers.


The Penguin update was a specific algorithm update in April 2012 that directly targeted “black hat” or spammy methods that are not accepted as part of Google Webmaster’s guidelines. This includes methods such as buying links to your website or obtaining them through link networks that are designed primarily to boost Google rankings. Google is requiring website masters to be honest and organic with their link building between other sites. There have been 4 updates to Penguin since the original release that really targeted the spammy websites.


Hummingbird is the latest Google algorithm update that was announced at the end of September, but actually was launched in the summer. It was so seamless, most people didn’t know  there was a change in how searching was occurring. This update is almost remaking the algorithm. Google’s new algorithm changes search to more conversational.  Google is focusing on the meaning behind each word in the search query ensuring that every word  is taken into account rather than just focusing on one or two keywords. The title of the blog is a perfect example of the changes to Google. “What is a Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird and How Does it Affect Searching Online?” is actually a way that people are searching. They are not just looking at a keyword and maybe a specific geography. They are asking questions and looking for much more specific information. With the title, you are entering quite a lot of specific keywords, but is the overall question for the search that Google is looking and will provide an answer to that entire question and not just each keyword individually.

Search continues to evolve and grow every day. As marketers we have to continue to understand these changes and realize how it will affect our company’s website. If your business is following good search engine optimization tactics and adding quality content to your website either through a blog, videos, podcasts or other content, then you shouldn’t have to worry every time that Google makes a change to their algorithm.

If you think that your website might have been affected by the changes, then it might be a good time to have a Search Engine Optimization assessment on your site.

Read About:

  • Senior Living
  • Self Storage
  • Addiction Rehab
  • Trade Shows
  • General