News Byte: Google Overhauls Search Engine

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News Byte: Google Overhauls Search Engine
News Byte: Google Overhauls Search Engine

For its 15th birthday, Google announced the overhaul of its search engine, a re-tooling that will drastically affect website traffic. The updated search algorithm, called “Hummingbird,” has actually been live for around a month, though it was only officially revealed late Thursday. At a conference that took place in the Menlo Park, CA, garage where Google was founded, company SVP Amit Singhal said that this change affects 90% of searches—specifically it alters which pages the search engine prioritizes.

In particular, Hummingbird routes Google search users directly to the page where they can find the most relevant results. For instance, a search for calories in McDonald's fries now has the top result as the fast food giant's official nutrition page.

Additionally, the new Google search algorithm is designed to understand the context behind queries, making each search more conversational. This is driven by consumers' tendencies to make more complicated queries in complete sentences (“Is there a sushi place close to my house?”), especially since the advent of voice search on mobile devices. In a blog post, Google explained that Hummingbird allows more complex queries—for instance, searching “compare butter with olive oil” or “compare Pekingese vs. Chihuahua” will result in side-by-side facts and statistics about each subject.

Hummingbird is a particularly large change to Google's algorithm in that it's a nearly complete replacement of its previous search engine, in contrast to earlier algorithm changes which were largely updates to existing technology.

Google said that it will continue tweaking its search capabilities. For instance, it will enable reminders across devices such that if an individual says into a Nexus 7 tablet, “OK Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway.” she will get a reminder on her iPhone when she walks into a Safeway store.

Finally, Google announced that it will roll out a new look and feel for search queries and ads on mobile handsets and tablets.

“It's cleaner and simpler, optimized for touch, with results clustered on cards so you can focus on the answers you're looking for,” Google stated in a blog.

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