Google Hummingbird Search Algorithm Update Now Features Conversational Search

In celebration of its 15th birthday, Google announced that it has overhauled its search algorithm. The new tool is called Hummingbird, and its chief feature is conversational search; in other words, when you make a search query, instead of merely looking at keywords and popping out results that seem to match them the best, Hummingbird is designed to employ a higher level of understanding.

For instance, if you say or type “What’s the best place to buy a TV near my house?”, the new algorithm might understand that by “place” you mean a physical store location, recognize that a “TV” is most typically sold in an electronics store, and try and pull up a store that’s closest to where you live.

Google Hummingbird algorithm

Further, Hummingbird is accounting for every word in the query to get a better sense of context and the meaning behind the search, and it’s doing so not just from its Knowledge Graph but from essentially all web pages, too.

It’s difficult to do an honest-to-goodness before/after test with Hummingbird because--those sly Google dogs--Hummingbird actually took flight about a month ago, so people have been unwittingly using it for weeks. However, SearchEngineLand put together this delicious example:

(Click to enlarge)

Formerly, if you searched for “pizza hut calories per slice”, you got something like the result on the left--a page from Now, Google would take you to Pizza Hut’s own nutritional information page, shown on the right.

Google Search timeline

A bonus: In a blog post discussing additional new Hummingbird developments such as cross-platform Google Search apps and a prettier UI on mobile devices, Google offered the above nice little infographic of Google’s existence. Memories.