Follow us on:

Get Analysis Report and Quote

Google Hummingbird: Where No Search Has Gone Before

Google has made several major changes to its search engine over the past several months. Search geeks have been debating (and complaining about) Enhanced Campaigns, the new look for mobile search results, Penguin 2.1, and several other technical updates — but the average Google user probably hasn’t noticed much of a difference. And that’s exactly what Google wants.

The most recent update was announced just recently during Google’s 15th birthday celebration. Nicknamed “Hummingbird,” it represents the biggest change to Google search since 2001. It’s not just a tweak to the search functionality — 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. 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.

Mobile searches are a very significant driving force behind this change. When users search on their smartphones, queries tend to be shorter — users don’t type as many words as when they’re using a full-size keyboard. But that trend reverses when voice search is used. Voice search queries tend to be longer, more complex, and more conversational. As we edge into the era of wearable tech, Google is making sure they are ready to provide the best voice search experience around.

Signed in users will be the biggest benefactors of these improvements, and this is the best example to date of Google tying all the information it has about its users together to improve their experience. 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.

Examples of previous search data take us back to voice search, and Google Glass. Google can now understand continuity in sequential searches — the oft-cited example is a Glass user asking, “When was the Eiffel Tower Built?” followed by, “How tall is it?” Google’s Knowledge Graph, its encyclopedia of 570 million unique concepts and the relations among them, helps power these kinds of interactions.

Ultimately, this is the driving force behind Hummingbird — making sure 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, Google is paving the way for the future. Before too long the idea of typing a search on a keyboard will seem very quaint indeed.

Source : Google Hummingbird: Where No Search Has Gone Before