With Google’s Hummingbird release, it seems that not much has changed in the search industry, except for those marketers that are looking to optimize for long-tail, more conversational keywords. Wired sums it up well;
Hummingbird is focused on the user. It’s about Google getting better at understanding what searchers really want and providing them with better answers.
The biggest improvements involve longer search queries. Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it. Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers. Google has made search more “human friendly” by making Google better at understanding language and how people communicate.
Most people won’t notice a huge change in the search results, but for longer, more complex, conversational queries, Google now gives much better answers. For example, say a user searches for “Hair salons near my house.” Previously, Google would analyze each word individually and provide results based on that — so you might get a Wikipedia article about hair salons, some map results based on your current location, and home improvement websites with pages titled “my house.” With Hummingbird, Google better understands what you’re asking for, and displays a list of hair salons near your house (provided you’re signed in to Google and have provided them with a home address in Google Maps). The results match the meaning behind the search, rather than just individual words.