Google Alters Search to Handle More Complex Queries

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on September 29, 2013

New York Times – By Claire Cain Miller
“Amit Singhal, senior vice president of search at Google, introduced the Hummingbird search algorithm at the garage in Menlo Park, Calif., where the company was founded 15 years ago. Google on Thursday announced one of the biggest changes to its search engine, a rewriting of its algorithm to handle more complex queries that affects 90 percent of all searches. The change, which represents a new approach to search for Google, required the biggest changes to the company’s search algorithm since 2000. Now, Google, the world’s most popular search engine, will focus more on trying to understand the meanings of and relationships among things, as opposed to its original strategy of matching keywords. The company made the changes, executives said, because Google users are asking increasingly long and complex questions and are searching Google more often on mobile phones with voice search. Google announced the new algorithm, called Hummingbird, at an event to celebrate the search engine’s 15th birthday. The event was held in the garage Google’s founders rented when they started the company. Google revealed few details about how the new algorithm works or what it changed. It said it made the change a month ago, though consumers may not have noticed a significant difference to search results during that time… Google originally matched keywords in a search query to the same words on Web pages. Hummingbird is the culmination of a shift to understanding the meaning of phrases in a query and displaying Web pages that more accurately match that meaning. Google had taken smaller steps toward this. The Knowledge Graph, introduced last year, understands the meanings of and relationships between things, people and places, which is known as semantic search. It is why a search for Michelle Obama, for instance, shows her birthday, hometown and family members’ names, as well as links to related people like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph R. Biden Jr. The algorithm also builds on work Google has done to understand conversational language, like interpreting what pronouns in a search query refer to. Hummingbird extends that to all Web searches, not just results related to entities included in the Knowledge Graph. It tries to connect phrases and understand concepts in a long query.”

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