20130928-145651.jpgWith an update called Hummingbird, Google has made the biggest change to its search algorithm since 2000, The New York Times Claire Caine Miller (@clairecm) reported this week.

As opposed to matching keywords, Google will focus more on trying to understand the meanings of phrases in a query and relationships among things. The update, already in place, will affect 90 percent of searches.

Widely recognized search expert, Danny Sullivan (@DannySullivan), told Caine Miller:

They said ‘Let’s go back and basically replace the engine of a 1950s car.’ It’s fair to say the general public seemed not to have noticed that Google ripped out its engine while driving down the road and replaced it with something else.

Google is making the change as people are asking increasingly long and complex questions, including with mobile phones with voice search.

It’s hard to say how these changes will effect lawyers who primarily rely on high search rankings to get their work. Lawyers, for over a decade, have honed in on particular keywords covering areas of the law and locales in an attempt to achieve top 10 search results.

Sullivan tells Caine Miller that Hummingbird does not change the way Google searches the web, but changes the results dsiplayed. Google says users will see more precise results.

In the past Google changed what it searched, or indexed, so as to eliminate the effect of ‘content-farm’s used by companies, including lawyers and legal marketing companies, to game search.

When you are talking understanding the meaning of phrases and taking into account relationships, you’d think that those lawyers sharing information and insight and building relationships, socially, online are going to have an increasing edge in search over those lawyers focused on keywords alone.