Today Google have shared the latest algorithm changes to the Google search engine. They open the blog post with the announcement that this will be the first of a new monthly series of articles on search updates. You can read the whole post for yourself here: Search quality highlights: new monthly series on algorithm changes.
This marks an interest change in their approach to search. For many years Google has kept the details of its search engine closely guarded and never made public announcements about small changes, it was always down the to SEO industry to spot changes, to test and speculate. Maybe those days are over. Then again, maybe this is a smokescreen! Either way, nobody can say (although they will) that Google does not share updates in search. Well, saying that, Google do obviously talk about search a lot, and make public announcements about the big changes, like Panda, Caffeine, Freshness etc. But the smaller, more subtle changes that occur daily and frustrate the small webmasters are possibly the ones that they are sharing more from now on.
I suspect that Google got fed up with so much misinformation leading to bad practices that they have decided that it is better for the search engine and searchers if webmasters are better equipped. Rather than letting the clever (and they certainly are clever) SEO experts run the show, they want to make it a fairer playing field for all. This is the reason they provide for the new monthly post on search:
“With this blog series, we’ll be highlighting many of the subtler algorithmic and visible feature changes we make. These are changes that aren’t necessarily big enough to warrant entire blog posts on their own.”
The Panda updates got that started – making quality count more and link building count less. At least, that is my belief. Not based on fact, not tested, but a hunch. If anything, the announcement of PageRank turned out to be the death of search for a while – spammers filled the search results with their own MFA sites, affiliate schemes, scams and other content designed to do nothing but convert clicks to sales as quickly as possible. Now real websites, that focus on quality, giving people more than just adverts, are fighting back. OK, ramble over. Sorry about that.
So, what are the latest changes that Google are sharing?
Related query results refinements
This change makes typed searches bring back more specific pages. For example, if you search for something that is old and blue, Google will now make a greater effort to return precisely those results and not a page of results talking about (and selling) new and blue items.
More comprehensive indexing
This change suggests that long-tail searches and documents will be better matched. For many people there was a reduction in long-tail search after the Panda update, and some feel it was a failing for some searches. This may be addressing that. Basically, if there is more specific information out there, Google will return in. Why only now? Maybe the masses of duplication, low quality and scraped content of the pre-Panda era simply meant there was too much noise before.
New “parked domain” classifier
This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. This is a big changes really. Previously Google would sometimes index and rank parked domains. This was especially true if a domain was dropped and previously help content – suddenly quality searches could lead to a page full of adverts. Google is now quicker to remove these. Also bad news for people in the domain catching industry as domains may quickly lose value once dropped.
More autocomplete predictions
This update probably ties in with the longtail update. Google are trying to make auto-complete more useful to searchers while being fairer for websites. There is nothing more frustrating for a webmaster than seeing Google hi-jack a search query and replace it with a search that leads to a competitors site instead of their own!
Fresher and more complete blog search results
Good news for blogs – Google will be indexing faster and deeper. I did not realise that blogs were left behind until now. I assume that some of the caffeine and freshness updates bypassed blogs? That seems to be what they are suggesting here.
This change is really big – Google have added new signals to determine if a page is the original publisher of the content. This is probably why the blog search has been sped up – so that bloggers do not “lose” their content in search to more established websites with faster crawling and indexing.
Live results for Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League
For sports fans, Google search will now be providing “live results” for soccer and Canadian football. This turns Google search into a sports news ticker. I am curious how they do this – is it really automated? Where does the information come from?
Image result freshness
A change to how Google determines image freshness for news queries. This is interesting – again, I guess an attempt to always attribute images to the source, or, ensure that the people taking the photos are getting the credit.
Layout on tablets
If you search on your tablet this will help, of little interest to most webmasters I guess!
Top result selection code rewrite
This is interesting – certainly a “last but not least”. Changes to the top results (first 5 maybe?) in Google. The main feature is that from now there will be fewer occasions when the same domain is shown more than once. “Host crowding” is dead, or at least maimed.
So, that is this month’s search update digest from Google. Some really positive changes there, looks like some of the anti-Panda pundits who have been complaining about scrapers will finally have to put a sock in it!