Semantic searching – the concept of improving search results by better understanding search terms in natural context – is the foundation for Google’s latest major algorithm, Hummingbird. The big focus with Hummingbird is to allow Google to really understand how searchers request information, whether by single keywords or through more developed questions, and determine the searcher’s intent.
To be successful in this concept, Hummingbird needs to evaluate millions of search queries and determine intent based upon its ongoing learning of how we ask for information. The key with Hummingbird is natural – the algorithm relies on learning how searchers “talk” when they look for things, rather than the old algorithms which focused on what keywords they used in their search.
That brings us to social media – the best area of the Internet to learn how humans really ask for information.
Social Sharing Says a Lot About How We Handle Content
You can learn a lot about a person by following her on Google+. With the right access to her profile you can see the types of pages she follows, the content she shares and comments on, the friends she associates with – basically a catalog of all the content that helps identify who she is.
Google monitors the content a person chooses to share, contribute and interact with (as long as the privacy settings allow it to be indexed). In turn, Google can analyze these exchanges and draw new connections between search terms and related content.
For example, Google can see where a community has formed gathering people interested in Search Engine Optimization. While analyzing the discussions posted in this community, Google may notice that quite a few reference the website platform WordPress. At that point, Google may begin to include more content that has information on both SEO and WordPress in search results for those users’ queries for either subject.
Privacy Concerns and Other Social Outlets
Right now Google is only considering content that you share and interact with using Google+, although expansion to other social platforms like Facebook may not be far off. For those concerned about privacy, especially in the wake of “shared endorsements” (a topic we’ll discuss next week), Google still allows you to lock down all your info and opt-out of this behind-the-scenes social sharing.
So it looks like Google is going to the actual core of how humans traditionally searched for information – by asking others. Social sharing and engagement harkens back to the days where people would seek out gurus and scholars for answers, not pull out a smartphone.
Are we going back to our roots with Hummingbird by paying more attention to natural language search? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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