In a recent spotlight piece, Google has looked back on 25 years of Danny Sullivan’s prestigious career. During which, the company has accomplished some pretty incredible things, and has transformed the face of its search engine practically beyond recognition.
For example, anyone who continues to think Google rolls out just a handful of changes to its search algorithm each year is far behind the times. In 2021 alone, Google made more than 5,000 adjustments to its search engine – and promised that an even greater number would follow this year.
“Since 2015, we’ve seen a more than 60% increase in natural language queries in Search. This means people can find what they need more easily, and using language that’s closer to the way we normally write and speak,” wrote Google.
Meanwhile, Mr Sullivan was asked to share his own thoughts and opinions on the current face of Google, along with any advice he may have for those who know less about the search engine than he does.
“I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into regularly improving Search. We make thousands of improvements throughout the year — more than 5,000 in 2021 alone,” he said.
“Once we’ve decided on a change, we carefully evaluate it with quantitative feedback from live experiments and qualitative feedback from our human reviewers. If everything looks good, we ship it. For example, today we’re updating how we rank product reviews in Search to prioritize in-depth, first-person content.”
“Last year, we conducted more than 800,000 experiments and ongoing quality tests to make sure the results we deliver — and changes we launch — actually make Search more useful for people. And we feel pretty confident this process is working. Over the last seven years, our internal metrics based on quality rater data show we’ve decreased the number of irrelevant results by over 50%.”
He was also asked if and to what extent he believes people’s perceptions of search engines have changed over the years.
“In the 1990s, I taught classes on search. Search engines weren’t always good at handling natural language queries, and learning special search commands could sometimes produce better results. People often felt it was their fault, rather than the search engine’s, if they didn’t find what they were looking for,” he said.
“Today, it feels like people are born knowing how to search. You just type what you want into a magic box, and poof! It delivers results — no classes needed. It also feels like people are less likely to blame themselves if they don’t find what they’re looking for. Perhaps it’s because search has become so advanced that people’s tendencies have changed. It’s so much easier to find what you need that people have developed higher (and well-justified!) expectations.”
“People may not always remember the many times Google gets them exactly what they’re looking for, but they may notice the outliers — the times we don’t get it right. At Google, we see this as a positive. It suggests we’ve built and earned a reputation for delivering what people want, and we strive to do just that.”