Google's Hummingbird algorithm continues poaching pageviews

Google celebrates its 15th anniversary of search with the rollout of its "Hummingbird" search algorithm.

A timeline of Google Search
A timeline of Google Search
  • A timeline of Google Search
  • Google's new comparison engine.
  • How Microsoft filters queries for, say, Impressionist artists.
  • Google's new filter in action, with Impressionist painters.
View all images

For years, search engines have trained us to speak in certain cadences, using certain words, and to pick out our own results from a list of relevant queries. Google's new Hummingbird algorithm strides further away from that, to a more natural interaction with a search engine.

Hummingbird, which has crept into Google's search engine for about a month now, provides better answers to more complex queries, the search company's executives say. Over time, Google has continued poaching pageviews away from content partners by answering more and more questions itself; that trend appears to be continuing with Google's latest improvements.

To celebrate 15 years in the search business, Google highlighted the next step in its roadmap: intelligence features, going beyond some of the anticipatory work Google enabled with its Google Now offering. The current design actually plays more into the mobile space than on the desktop, with two new innovations specifically designed to return answers, not results: a new comparison engine, and better filters that leads more naturally into a "conversation" with Google on your mobile device. Google hosted a press event at its "Google garage,"--the Mountain View, Calif. home originally rented to Larry Page and Sergey Brin by Anne Wojcicki, before she married Brin.

As an example of the new comparison engine, Google suggested users ask Google to "compare butter with olive oil" or "compare Earth vs. Neptune". Comparisons have traditionally one of the strong points of rival search engine Wolfram Alpha, so it's interesting to see Google take a stab at ousting Wolfram from one of its traditional strengths.

With the new filters, users can command their phone to "tell me more about Impressionist artists," where Google will provide more context about the artists, as well as some alternative genres. While Google hasn't quite copied Bing, it is interesting to note the similarities in context and design between Google's example in the mobile space and what Microsoft's Bing search on the desktop returns.

Google also promised a "single, more unified design" in its mobile search app--again, with an emphasis on providing its own answers, not results.

"We'll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you," Amit Singhal, senior vice president for search at Google, wrote in a blog post. "This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Hopefully, we'll save you a few minutes of hassle each day. So keep asking Google tougher questions--it keeps us on our toes! After all, we're just getting started."

According to Singhal, with more complex queries, the Hummingbird algorithm can better understand concepts, rather than words, as well as relationships between concepts.

If we draw a line between Google Now, Hummingbird, and beyond, it appears that Google sees itself more and more as the agent with whom you will interact, rather than as a gateway to other pages hosted elsewhere on the Web. What's next for Google's R&D department? Medical diagnoses? A customized voting guide? Or an existential search engine that can provide suggested answers to the question, "Why are we here?"

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

CMOs, it’s time to stop squandering customer attention

Businesses continue to highly value the attention they buy through paid media, yet at the same time, many continue to disregard and under-value opportunities to connect with customers using their owned media.

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Thanks Nadia for sharing this blog. It has really useful and amazing information about Salesforce Commerce Cloud and digital engagement w...

Holly Smith

Adidas taps data and technology smarts to build personalised digital engagement with consumers

Read more

clearly someone who's jealous and only comments from the safety of being behind their keyboard

Peter Sibson

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in