Google's Hummingbird Aims to Think Like You

According to Google, their new search algorithm "Hummingbird" was named for the speed and accuracy of the tiny bird. This new search technology requires a fresh look at our approach to search engine optimization (SEO).

New Search Habits
We have learned to approach search by typing a word, several words, or a question into the search engine. Then, the search engine will find and serve us links that contain the specific words we typed. We have also found that search can be a matter of trial and error. If the search results don’t offer answers to our question, we can improve the results by fine tuning our search words. The search sees the words within our query as separate things and has not previously focused on the context of the words or the meaning of the questions. Google Hummingbird was developed to look at the combination of words in the search entry and provide results based on the meaning of the words or questions, not just matching the individual words.

Google’s Volume of Data
Google is now 15 years old and has been gathering, analyzing, categorizing, and storing data all this time. Today, Google may have the largest database of information every gathered and recorded. This has enabled Google’s developers to create a smarter search engine, one that can analyze and comprehend the meaning of search queries. It can do this because of the volume of data it has for reference, as well as data showing the relationship between topics.

Just as your grocery store has been tracking all your purchases through your membership card, Google has been tracking all your search activity. While your grocery store is unable to track what you do with your groceries once you leave the store, Google is able to track your behavior after receiving the search results. That is a powerful amount of information on how we use internet search. Google is accessing the collective intelligence of the web and creating a search system that is designed to think like people do.

The Knowledge Graph
Google’s Knowledge Graph was the precursor to Hummingbird. The Knowledge Graph is that block of information that appears on the right of the search results and shows an organized block of information that relates to your search query. The Knowledge Graph was developed to enhance Google’s search in several ways. First, to find the correct thing you are looking for, which means it needs to understand the difference between things that share the same name or term. For example, the difference between the ancient pyramids of Egypt and a pyramid in geometry. This understanding makes the results more relevant to your search. Second, The Knowledge Graph aims to provide a summary of information related to your search topic. And it customizes that information based on what people have previously wanted to know in relation to that item. For example, when you search for Walt Whitman you get pertinent details on his life but also links to his major writings, as well as other authors that people have searched for along with Walt Whitman. A third element that enhances your search results in the Knowledge Graph is that the information is broader than what you searched for. As in the Walt Whitman example, you may see books you were not aware he wrote, and related authors you have not heard of.

Thinking Like You
The Knowledge Graph debuted May 2012 and was the start of Google’s quest to understand your questions and provide an intelligent answer. In September of 2013 Hummingbird was launched, another advancement in their approach to the search engine. Quoting from Google’s blog “We (Google) have always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want. And we can now sometimes help answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the facts we show are informed by what other people have searched for.”

Will Google Provide All the Answers?
Google’s job as a search engine has been to efficiently and accurately find answers for people when they do a search. Up until recently, that happened by serving up search results that offered the user links to websites that hopefully had the answers. As a business, you compete to enter the upper rankings of search results so it will be your website that the searcher chooses. Now you are competing with Google as well.

So, the big question is...if Google is answering our search queries in the search results, why would people need to click on the link to your website for information? Something to think about.

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