Google has unveiled an upgrade to the way it interprets users’ search requests. The new algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird, is the first major upgrade for three years.
The changes could have a major impact on traffic to websites. Hummingbird represents the most dramatic alteration to Google’s search engine since it revised the way it indexes websites three years ago as part of a redesign called “Caffeine,” according to Amit Singhal, a senior vice president for the company. He estimates that the redesign will affect the analysis of about 90 per cent of the search requests that Google gets.
Hummingbird is primarily aimed at giving Google’s search engine a better grasp at understanding concepts instead of mere words, Singhal said.
The change needed to be done, Singhal said, because people have become so reliant on Google that they now routinely enter lengthy questions into the search box instead of just a few words related to specific topics.
With the advent of smartphones and Google’s voice-recognition technology, people also are increasingly submitting search requests in sequences of spoken sentences that resemble an ongoing conversation. That trend also factored into Google’s decision to hatch Hummingbird.
Any reshuffling of Google’s search rankings can have sweeping ramifications because they steer so much of the Internet’s traffic. Google fields about two of out every three search requests in the US and handles an even larger volume in some parts of Europe. The changes could also drive up the price of Google ads tied to search requests if websites whose rankings are demoted under the new system feel they have to buy the marketing messages to attract traffic.