Google Releases Hummingbird While Quietly Killing SEO Keyword Data

By Gregory Lee in Industry News on October 8th, 2013

Google took everyone by surprise as it quietly made significant changes to its search capabilities and algorithm. Google transitioned to 100% secure search regardless of whether or not a user is logged into a Google property such as Google+ or Gmail. The result: Google search no longer supplies keyword data from organic search.


Simultaneously, Google arguably made the biggest algorithm change since 2001, replacing its famous algorithm that had been gradually tweaked over the years with an all new algorithm called Hummingbird. Google quietly closed off keyword data and made an announcement about the new algorithm and its capabilities. The combination of these two changes prove that Google is serious about moving SEO emphasis away from keyword-centric spam and toward meaningful, high-quality content. Google claims that this algorithm still supports current SEO best practices, techniques and guidelines. However, at BKV, we know that as the technology changes, so do the opportunities. How You Are Immediately Affected By Google’s Updates These changes mean that you can no longer track visits, conversions, bounce rates, etc. in analytics software to identify how your Google search visitors engage with your website based on the keywords they searched to find you. The remaining keywords you see in your analytics software are provided by other search engines besides Google.


The Hummingbird algorithm is designed to have the biggest impact on voice searches by inferring search intent for words that were previously ignored. The old algorithm designed for typing queries with a keyboard ignored “stop words” like a, the, of, is and on, which had little meaning compared to keywords. Google’s treatment of stop words evolved over time to account for phrases. Hummingbird now considers what Google calls “hot wording” by inferring what the searcher wants to know when using words like how, why, where, and when. Google’s new technology is designed to better leverage semantic search or entity search.  Essentially, there is a deeper match in the meaning of the search query phrase and the meaning of the content Google serves in the result. We have seen Google moving in this direction over the years by its use of local search, rich snippets, the Knowledge Graph and its adoption of markup vocabulary to support this more detailed and media-rich search experience. What Do You Mean by "Google Does Not Pass Keyword Data?" Google used to provide the keyword in the referrer URL which is passed from Google’s server to your web server when someone clicks a link from Google organic search to your website. In October 2011, Google rolled out encrypted search for anyone signed into Google.  As a result, your analytics software began to include (Not Provided) in the list of keywords that drove traffic to your website.  As Google's online products became more popular, the percent of searches for not provided keywords increased. Now, all Google searches are encrypted. A Demonstration of How Google Hides Keywords While Bing Does Not Search Google for “orange” and look at the URL in the browser.  After you should see search?q=orange indicating your search query was orange.


In a Chrome browser, you can use the built-in developer tools to inspect the web server Request Headers and see the referrer URL.  Click a search result and then look at the referrer. There is no keyword after q=. Referrer:,d.eWU In the same search in Bing, click on the same website and you’ll see the referrer URL includes q=orange. Referrer: How Is BKV's SEO Team Preparing for Google’s Current and Future Changes? We have ways of making your keywords talk! Our SEO reporting will now include insight from other sources to replace not provided Google Analytics keyword data.
  • We will continue to report and gain insight from engagement and conversions at a keyword level using keyword data from other sources including Google paid search and other organic search engines that continue to pass keyword data.
  • We will leverage Webmaster Tools data for impressions and clicks to see which keywords drive Google organic search traffic to your site.
  Long before Hummingbird, the SEO department at BKV has been laying the ground for Google’s improvements in semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.  Even before Google supported, there were other forms of data feeding its rich snippets, local results, Knowledge Graph and vertical search engines.
  • We monitor and test rich snippet technologies and upgrade you when Google supports new sections of the vast vocabulary.
  • We proactively edit your Knowledge Graph sources such as Wikipedia and Google+.
  • We leverage your physical business locations across multiple online channels to increase brand authority and local search signals.
Contact our SEO experts today to learn more about the new opportunities we can provide