Google Search Updates
Google recently released a blog posting about the 40 changes they made (or are in the process of making) in their search engine during the month of February. If you count the list, there are only 36, but that’s still a substantial number of changes – 36 changes in 29 days. More than a change a day to the world’s favourite means of making sense of the internet.
In terms of search engine optimization, or even the user experience, some of these changes are quite minor and innocuous. For instance, one of the changes is “More consistent thumbnail sizes on results page.” Google is constantly experimenting and changing the layout and format of results returned to the searcher, and in this case, they are trying to display a more consistent and appealing layout. While it may make the pages a bit more fashionable, there’s not much real impact on search engine operations.
As for the more substantial changes, Search Engine Land yesterday published a great blog on some of the Google search engine changes. This blog covers the latest Panda update (number 32), changes to a mystery link evaluation signal (number 33), and improvements to local search rankings (number 26). Of these three, the first two are sure to get a few search engine professionals tied up in knots. The Panda update is simply a refinement to last year’s major initiative, and the link evaluation signal change is probably related to an item that had minor relevance in any case. The third one, changes to local search, may have a more significant change. However, it’s a bit hard to isolate this particular change, since Google has been refining local search incrementally for some time now. But since Google often equates “relevant” results with “local and personalized” results, it’s yet another indication of their emphasis on improving local search.
I’m also intrigued by the first item on the list:
- More coverage for related searches. [launch codename “Fuzhou”] This launch brings in a new data source to help generate the “Searches related to” section, increasing coverage significantly so the feature will appear for more queries. This section contains search queries that can help you refine what you’re searching for.
Ignoring the poor grammatical choices to close the final sentence, this is showing again that Google is not only trying to interpret what you type into the search box, but also what you really mean. One of the ways in which they try to interpret this is by studying the series of queries from all their users, as indicated in item 20:
- Data refresh for related searches signal. [launch codename “Chicago”, project codename “Related Search”] One of the many signals we look at to generate the “Searches related to” section is the queries users type in succession. If users very often search for [apple] right after [banana], that’s a sign the two might be related. This update refreshes the model we use to generate these refinements, leading to more relevant queries to try
Google has become masters of drawing lessons from the enormous number of queries they process every day, and they are always refining their algorithms. It makes for a nice little cycle for the company. The happier you are with their results, the more often you will use Google, and the more revenue they can generate from advertising, leading to more data to further refine the algorithms to give better search results.