It’s Friday. My brain is still swirling around the plotline of Sons of Anarchy that I got caught up on last night (seriously, what are you thinking, Juice?), so this morning when I tried to read Matt Cutts’ latest post on Google’s Inside Search, explaining 10 algorithm updates from the past couple weeks, I found myself re-reading every line, wondering when SAMCRO’s alliance with the cartel will end…sorry, there I go again.
As Google likes to state in nearly every article they write, they make roughly 500 changes to their algorithm every year. With that in mind, the list below represents about 2% of this year’s updates. Hey, it’s a step toward transparency, right?
I’ve done my best to morningize [verb: to make something make sense after a night of late night TV] the list:
- Cross-language information retrieval updates: There is an abundance of information and content online, but it is available in a disproportionate volume depending on language. This update is specifically aimed towards Afrikaans, Malay, Slovak, Swahili, Hindi, Norwegian, Serbian, Catalan, Maltese, Macedonian, Albanian, Slovenian, Welsh, and Icelandic speakers, where online information in their language may be limited. If a search is performed in Hindi and Google deems an English page to be more relevant than the Hindi results, for example, it will display the English title of the page in search results, with the translated title beneath it. Clicking on the translated title takes you to a translated version of that page.
- Snippets with more page content and less header/menu content: A normal search result shows a title, a short description and occasionally, elements called rich snippets (ratings, number of reviews, price an image, etc.). You are able to tell the search engines what to display here with meta tags in your code. However, sometimes people forget to use these, or, Google decides they are smarter than you (they are) and pulls in information from your page to override these tags if they think it is more relevant than what you told them to use. Unfortunately, sometimes Google pulls in text contained in your navigation menus or header, thinking that it is relevant to the page.
- Better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors: Another factor that Google considers when generating a title for your page (whether you really want them to or not) is the anchor text of links pointing to that page. Sometimes, however, people use the same or similar words to link to a page that may not be the most relevant way to describe the page, such as linking the company name to an article.
- Length-based autocomplete predictions in Russian: Basically, this only affects Russian queries by producing shorter predictions. In other words, they won’t be jumping to long conclusions, similar to how they currently predict queries in English.
- Extending application rich snippets: As I mentioned above, a rich snippet is any value-added element in a search result, such as a price, image, number of reviews and so on. This update is specific to searches for software applications, in which these rich snippets will be available more often in results. Considering these elements are more attractive than results without them, more rich snippets could mean more clicks.
- Retiring a signal in Image search: When you perform an image search, results are displayed according to an algorithm, just like your webpage results. However, Google has decided to retire the ranking signal that relates to images with references from multiple web pages. In other words, a popular image may not be the most relevant image.
- Fresher, more recent results: This update is already pretty well-known in the search world. Dubbed the “Freshness Update,” this update is estimated to impact roughly 35% of total searches and aims to improve results for queries that may be time-sensitive, such as news or product reviews; because you don’t want to search for [iphone reviews] and see how the original iPhone stacks up against the competition.
- Refining official page detection: I’ll admit, this one is hazy to me. The goal here is to better “determine which pages are official,” but there is no explanation of what they mean by “official.” Presumably, this update better determines high authority sites and official carriers of certain products.
- Improvements to date-restricted queries: This update is similar to the Freshness Update, providing better results for users who select a specific date range to filter their search.
- Prediction fix for IME queries: For queries that contain non-Latin characters, Autocomplete previously displayed predictions that appeared to be nonsense for Hebrew, Russian and Arabic searches.
If a long, bulleted list of paragraphs didn’t scare you off, I congratulate you on making it to the end. While this list may only represent 2% of Google’s annual algorithm changes, it gives a glimpse of just how rapidly search technology is improving and changing, and how important it is to adapt so you can maintain an effective search presence.