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Google Finally Disclosed Why 90% Search Traffic got Effected

OK. So I guess the cat's finally out of the bag, as Google has finally disclosed the reason behind the massive search traffic drop that effected millions of websites last month. In response to the drop, we conducted a few case studies of our own, and looked over the traffic patterns for various websites, large and small. We concluded that there was definitely something wrong, and Google was making changes at the back-end without telling anybody (You can check the study out here). Well now, Google has finally disclosed the reasons behind the traffic drop in an event held Thursday that marked the company's 15th birthday.

Traffic for millions of websites got effected. But even so, Google's and Googlers' blogs and social media profiles were annoyingly deserted, and no one was any the wiser as to what was going on, attributing the massive loss of traffic to another possible algorithmic change. And right they were! Google indeed has made algorithmic changes, and this time around, it's not another beast lurking around in the wilderness...'s a major overhaul of the search engine!

OK, the "not another beast" part might not be entirely true, because this new algorithm is called the Hummingbird (like the Panda and Penguin updates). But you gotta hand it to Google for taking something innocent, and turning it something nasty; and apparently, the more innocent, the nastier it is (Google's perverse logic, as it should be called :P). But forgive me for straying off-topic.

As I was saying, it's a major overhaul of the search engine codenamed 'Hummingbird', and it is the biggest change since the 'Caffeine' update in 2010 - possibly bigger, much bigger. "It is really big," admits Amit Singhal, a Google Search executive.

What's new?

Two major changes can be identified from Google's announcement.

1. Complex-queries

As Google has evolved, people have learned to search for phrases and sentences rather than simply words. This is a challenge, because it makes search queries complex. So Google has been working all this time to entertain more and more complex queries. Hence, longer and more complex search queries can be used now for searching content on Google. The purpose is to 'understand' what a searcher wants.

So for example, if I want to compare the nutritional benefits of olive oil and coconut oil (something a Google executive showed off at the event), I won't just be given a list of websites with relevant content. Instead, I will see all the nutritional information in the form of a comparison right there on Google, which means I won't have to actually click through to any website for the desired information. A search algorithm like that is bound to hurt a website that writes about olive oil and its benefits!

2. Voice-based search

Google has now improved upon its voice-based search as well. People speak differently, and write differently. So voice-based queries are different, and more complex than text-based ones. People also use smartphones to search the internet, which also means more voice-based (and ultimately complex) search queries.

Using this as a motivation, Google has designed the new algorithm to better understand voice-based queries, and return relevant results. It now also features support for varying dialects and accents, which is a plus-point for international users (outside the U.S).

So what does it all mean?

As a casual web surfer? It means Google is your go-to place for searching for stuff. Forget Bing or Yahoo. But the more avid user can immediately find a problem; Google is gaining more power. And we all know what happens when there's an imbalance of power, don't we? It makes people dependant. Kind of like putting all your eggs in the same basket. And I don't need to tell you how perilous that can be.

For webmasters, it's cause for concern, because most of their traffic depends on organic search through Google. And if Google suddenly decides that it can provide the content you have on your site by itself, then there's nothing much you can do about it.

But what surprises me is how biased is the attitude towards large, corporate websites. Small websites with great content usually get penalized, whereas the big fish in the corporate world mostly get away with. Not to take a deliberate or personal shot, but when you have free time on your hands, do take a look at the content produced on the site, and then tell me if their search ranking is justified or not.

In the end, one can only hope for the best, and pray that the next update would be at least a little less biased, and a little more explained, so that small, yet original content publishers can also profit from their hard work. All the best for the future :)


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