Google introduced a new algorithm by the name of Hummingbird to the world today at the garage where Google started as a business, during a celebration of Google’s 15th Birthday. Google doesn’t appear to have replaced previous signals such as PageRank or many of the other signals that they use to rank pages. The announcement of the new algorithm told us that Google actually started using Hummingbird a number of weeks ago, and that it potentially impacts around 90% of all searches.
It’s being presented as a query expansion or broadening approach which can better understand longer natural language queries, like the ones that people might speak instead of shorter keyword matching queries which someone might type into a search box.
In my college days, I cooked at some local restaurants (free meals made it an attractive option for a starving college student). One of the restaurants was in the center of town, at one end of Main Street, and it was a popular place for local residents who returned over and over. It had a great reputation, and word-of-mouth propelled advertising for the place. Another dining venue I worked at was outside of the center of town, nearby an interstate highway. It didn’t have a great reputation, and very few regular customers, except for people who would stop during mealtime from the busy interstate. The “food” sign from the highway attracted most of the traffic to its dining room.
Funny thing is that most of the regulars that frequented the first restaurant rarely had to look up its location, because it was so well known. Most of the people who visited the second restaurant had never been there before, and relied upon the highway sign. There’s another restaurant in that location now, and I have no doubt that many people find it via maps or navigation on their mobile devices or in-car navigation. I mention this because I have some issues with a recently granted Google patent.
When you search, especially for topics that you know little about, chances are that you might not include the most relevant terms in your query, or you might use words that may have ambiguous meanings.
One of the areas where search engines focus a lot of attention upon is in reformulating queries through query suggestions and query expansion to help searchers better meet their situational and informational needs quickly.
When you search, you might see a number of query suggestions at the bottom of the results that were first returned, like the ones above on a search for [find airedale terrier puppies]. Or a search engine might include synonyms or substitute queries to expand your original query.
Something was missing, and I didn’t exactly know what it was. Around a year or so ago, I joined a big agency, and that gave me a chance to look at a lot of sites, provide in-depth consultation audits for a number of clients, perform monthly strategy reviews for others, inform the sales team on issues that might be helpful to address in proposals, and help other SEOs within the company when they asked for it.
I enjoyed doing these things, but there was something missing. I enjoyed working with the crew that I worked with as well. It’s great to work with people who are excited about the Web and about learning and growing. I’m now going to be working with a new crew who are filled with excitement and energy and innovation.
When I talk about, or write about entities, it’s normally in the context of specific people, places, or things. Google was granted a patent recently which discusses a different type of entity, in a more narrow manner. These entities are referred to as “search entities”, and the patent uses them to predict probabilities and understand the relationship between them better. This kind of analysis might result in some pages ranking higher than they otherwise might because of their similarities to other sites, and in some sets of search results favoring fresher results as well.
These search entities can include:
But I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I’m just backdated, yeah
– Peter Townsend
When you search at Google, how easy is it to find what you’re looking for? Do you search again, but try different but related words if your first attempt doesn’t uncover pages that you find useful?
If I search for “car repair” and follow it up on a search for “auto repair,” I would suspect that I would see a lot of the same pages, but perhaps not in the same order. I would also expect to see local search results for both, and I do. The local search results aren’t in the exact same order either. Some words or phrases do make good substitutes for others though, as can be seen in the image below:
Google published a patent application this week that details the user card interface Google is using for applications such as Google Now. The “invention” described in the patent enables people to share the things they want to experience, or experiences that they have gone through. The patent filing is a detailed walkthrough of how a data card interface might work, but it also details a set of social features that are unique and may be engaging enough to be adopted by a wide range of people.
See someone behaving abnormally at a nearby wharf? Share it on an experience card with others who might be within your circles, with an even broader audience, or even the public. Have a desire to eat a gourmet meal and imbibe a bottle of wine in a cafe in Paris? Post the experience, and share it with others.
Google has come under fire the last year or so from critics who claim that the search engine has been providing too many pages from some of the same domains in search results. It appears that this has had them looking at ways that they could provide more diversity within those results. A patent granted to Google earlier this year describes one approach that could have an impact on both local search rankings and Web rankings for authority pages for business entities.
The impact of this approach would be that when these authority pages ranked highly in both Web results and local search results, Google might merge listings for the two, so that the Web search result no longer appears within search results for a specific query and the local search result is potentially boosted higher in results as well.
In the past, I’ve written about How Google Universal Search and Blended Results May Work, describing how Google might decide when and where to include multiple listings within Web search results from different vertical search types, such as local results, images, news articles, videos, and others. Each of these different types of results might be ranked based upon their relevance to a query, and might be included within results based upon how meaningful those results might be to the query and the intent of a searcher.