Google Hummingbirds: new algorithm that changes its search engine.


Google recently celebrated its 15th anniversary (in the Palo Alto garage where Sergey and Brin first got started), and announced the biggest change to Google search, since 2001, with the name Hummingbird.  Hummingbird is a completely new search algorithm that affects 90 percent of all searches. The most interesting part is that Hummingbird actually launched a month before the announcement… and no one noticed. Once again, that’s exactly what Google wants. 

Google has updated its search algorithm many times over the past few years, but previous updates were focused on making Google better at gathering information (for example, indexing websites more often and identifying spammy content). Now, the Hummingbird algorithm is meant to provide more contextual results for end users, and give to users more and precisely answers,(rather that letting them muddle or “surf” through multiple results), in order to find the relevant information.

The best example of this, is the word “pink.” If I search for “pink” I could mean the color, the artist, or a particular brand. Google wants to be able to read your mind. 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.

Besides, is trying to get more traffic from the search engine, and that means no more short-cuts and no more trying to “fool” Google. Before these changes, businesses which followed these guidelines were rewarded. Now, if you don’t follow these guidelines, you get punished. Google isn’t playing around.

Most people won’t notice a huge change in the search results, but actually now Google gives much better answers, for longer, more complex and conversational queries. Let’s see some examples:

First example:

– Click on the microphone in the Google search bar and say “who was Leonardo da Vinci?” (Google will give you information on Leonardo da Vinci).

– Then say to the computer “when was he born?” (Google will give you the date of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth).

– Then say to your computer “was he married?” (Google will give you information on the personal life of Leonardo da Vinci).

Notice that you did not have to enter the name of the person you wanted information on, after the first query.

Second example:

If a user is searching for “Hair salons near my house”, Google would analyze each word individually and provide results based on that. (So previously, 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 can understand better 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.

So, Google can now understand continuity in sequential searches and Google’s Knowledge Graph (which is an encyclopedia of 570 million unique concepts and the relations among them), helps power these kinds of interactions.

In addition to the search query, additional information is pulled in from the user’s location (and saved locations), social connections (on G+), time of day, even previous searches.

For all these changes a very significant driving force, is the mobile searches. When users search on their smartphones, queries tend to be shorter, because users don’t type as many words as when they’re using a full-size keyboard.  

In conclusion, it seems that Google is prepared for a future where its users interact with it constantly, quickly, and verbally. By making its search engine better at understanding people, (but not quite perfect), Google is certainly keeping things interesting. Before too long the idea of typing a search on a keyboard will seem very quaint indeed.


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