The Evolution of Search

DOT Report, Publication by IMA

Internet marketing and Digital Marketing in general are constantly evolving fields, as marketers on the web we are in tow with the changes that Google makes to its algorithm. The latest of the changes is the newly released Hummingbird algorithm.

With the release of the new algorithm, Google tries to capture into a few things

  • The changing way in which we access the web, primarily meaning mobile users.
  • The type of queries and results required for mobile queries.
  • The semantics of our queries.When Hummingbird released, Amit Singhal came to stage to announce that this update affected up to 90% of queries. This is an astoundingly large figure in comparison to the general 2-4% that most updates and tweaks take.Most website owners were a bit surprised however noticing that their results mostly stayed the same. The reason this happened is because of the way we check results and the way this update affected results. We generally compare our results against short term keywords such as “internet marketing” or perhaps “internet marketing association”, however this update affected a large number of extremely long tail keywords such as “what is the future of internet marketing going to be like”.

    Google has pretty openly said that anywhere between 20-50% of searches are quite long tail in nature, and within that set about 20% of terms are terms which Google has never encountered before. This is a number that is ever increasing dealing with the way search is going to evolve, if you think mobile, you may think that because of your limited interface and time you will be typing even shorter queries, which is true, however in the near future when we are using more speech recognition we will have more natural queries such as “what is a good website of internet marketing” or “where can I get a degree in digital marketing”. These are changes in the way that we will be accessing the web and Google is just preparing for a more natural query based search.

    The next question is how are these queries going to make sense to Google, let’s look at a few examples from across the web, let’s say we look at international markets where if we take terms like “Gadi” – this means car in Hindi, which is an Indian language, the term Gadi is interchangeable with car or with a wagon, so when a regional user searches for Gadi, Google needs to understand context and prepare results which would be relevant to the user, based on his location, intention and history.

    There is of course a more natural reason Google has to do these changes, which is more self serving in nature. The updates that Google provides also affect its advertising business, if 20% of the queries that Google sees are new, then there’s no way it can serve advertisements for those queries, however with hummingbird it establishes a way to semantically better understand those queries and then serve relevant advertising as well.

    At the end of all this, what does this mean for you as a webmaster and what do you need to do keep on top of the changes that are being brought about in the updates. From the metrics we have gathered so far, and this is of course not the best time to get very definitive since it’s rather quick after the update, we have found that there is more emphasis on page relevance versus just having large websites which bring little relevance. This means that if people are coming to your website and spending little time, and moving onto the next result, your website isn’t providing the required answers for their queries, if your website is shallow on content or just has mostly filler and no reasonably updated pages, you better get cranking on some updates to your pages.

    In a longer term perspective, mobile is going to be important as is your website look and feel, if you haven’t updated your website to have a responsive design, or if you don’t have a specific mobile version, it’s time to update. As far as user experience goes, make sure that the header is not advertisement heavy, if you are serving a large block of advertising right in the face of the user versus relevant content, you may have some issues with future updates as well. As far as your content goes, you should be updating regularly and adding relevant new content as well.

    We are regularly following what updates are coming into the algorithms and look forward to your comments on how you are finding these updates affecting your website as well. Please feel free to drop in your findings and tell us what you are doing to your websites.