On Friday last week, Google released details of a significant search algorithm update called ‘Hummingbird’.
Hummingbird expands the use of the innovative Knowledge Graph, which Google brought in last year to help its search facility interpret the relationship between different concepts in a query – rather than just matching a search with plain keywords on a web page.
It is hoped that this update will allow Google to provide more relevant listings for queries that don’t have simple answers.
In a blog post, Google Search’s senior vice-president, Amit Singhal, used the query ‘Tell me about Impressionist artists’ as an example, saying that such a search would now take the ‘Tell me’ instruction into account before returning a wealth of information about artists of the Impressionist movement, including who they are, when they lived and details of their most famous paintings. Before the change, users will have simply been presented with results related to the keywords used, as opposed to a response to the actual request.
Singhal also confirmed that the Hummingbird update will allow users to compare the details of two items. He used dietary queries as an example, explaining how those who want to compare the calorific content between two food items can do so easily. Previously, users had to search for each food item and delve into the necessary sites. Now, nutritional content information is offered above the listings.
The update seems to fit in well with the ever-changing needs of Google’s users and emphasises the need for varied content on websites. With more people using smartphones to search by voice than ever before, for example, the search function is expected to work in a more ‘conversational’ way.
While the company is believed to make several hundred minor changes to its search algorithm every year, only the bigger, more significant updates are given names. Examples include Panda, which sought to improve the overall quality of the search listings, and Caffeine, which allowed the search engine to provide results more efficiently, and of course the Penguin update of last year.
The Hummingbird announcement was made last week as part of an event held at a property in Menlo Park, California, where Google first began operating out of a garage.
Later this week, we’ll take what we know about Hummingbird and look in further detail at what it will mean for website owners and their SEO/digital marketing strategies.