Google Announces a New Search Algorithm Named Hummingbird

On Thursday, September 26, 2013, Google announced a substantial change in its search engine. A new algorithm named “Hummingbird” had been implemented. As Greg Kumparak wrote in an article titled Google Recently Made A Silent Shift To A New Search Algorithm, “Hummingbird”, Google claims ” . . . that this was the biggest overhaul to their engine since the 2009 ‘Caffeine’ overhaul (which focused on speed and integrating social network results into search) and that it affects ‘around 90% of searches'”. The announcement offered few technical details.

The main focus, and something that was repeated several times in Mr. Kumparak’s article, was that the new algorithm allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.” (quoted from Mr. Kumparak’s article).

This announcement seems to me to be more fluff than substance. For example, I just tried out this new search tool with a simple question “Where can I find a ride to Las Vegas?” The very first Search Engine Results Placement (SERP), “las vegas rideshare classifieds – craiglist” was the ONLY SERP on the first page of results relevant to my question. When I ran the same search with Bing, 2 of first 10 SERPs were reasonable results for my query. So where’s the big improvement for the Google Search engine?

I don’t think there is one. So this announcement signals yet another crack in the wall of Google’s prize position — its search engine. But is there something else at work here? I think there is, something to do with tailoring the search engine to better service the changing needs of click advertisers for better results from their investments. Over the last couple of quarterly returns, Pay Per Click advertising has not done as well, for Google, as the analyst community would have liked to have seen. So I think this change in the algorithm is really designed to deliver better click ad performance. I hope the actual mechanics of how the system will work better for online advertisers will shortly be illuminated for the public.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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