Google’s most recent installment of their search quality highlights is out, listing more than 65 changes to the search algorithm from August and September.
Most are decidedly minor, a few stand out, and a couple major changes we know about seem to be missing entirely. Specifically, there is nary a word about the exact match domain update Google warned of on September 27. Why is this?
“These changes rolled out very recently, and their launch language was approved after the cutoff date where we were finalizing the blog post,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Watch. “We tweeted these changes and were also planning to include those launches in future updates.”
We know for certain a Panda update occured on September 27. We also know there was a Panda data refresh Sept. 18, though Google announced that one via Twitter.
Perhaps this September change entry applies to Panda: “#84394. [project ‘Page Quality’] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.”
Google has filed algorithm changes related to Panda and Penguin under the “Page Quality” project in the past, as they did in May of this year. It’s vague, but this entry may very well refer to the September 18th or 27th Panda update.
Keep in mind, Matt Cutts’ tweet from September 28 said the EMD update was “upcoming.” Some believe it happened September 27 or 28, though they could very well have mistaken it for Panda.
To my knowledge, there has been no official confirmation the EMD update came out at the time of Cutts’ tweet. We’ve asked Cutts for clarification and will update the post if we hear back.
Here is an overview of the more interesting recent changes that were included in the report from Google:
Local & Mobile
- LTS. [project “Other Ranking Components”] We improved our web ranking to determine what pages are relevant for queries containing locations.
- #83659. [project “Answers”] We made improvements to display of the local time search feature.
- nearby. [project “User Context”] We improved the precision and coverage of our system to help you find more relevant local web results. Now we’re better able to identify web results that are local to the user, and rank them appropriately.
- #83377. [project “User Context”] We made improvements to show more relevant local results.
- #84586. [project “Other Ranking Components”] This change improved how we rank documents for queries with location terms.
- #81360. [project “Translation and Internationalization”] With this launch, we began showing local URLs to users instead of general homepages where applicable (e.g. blogspot.ch instead of blogspot.com for users in Switzerland). That’s relevant, for example, for global companies where the product pages are the same, but the links for finding the nearest store are country-dependent.
- #81999. [project “Translation and Internationalization”] We revamped code for understanding which documents are relevant for particular regions and languages automatically (if not annotated by the webmaster).
Ranking & Indexing
- #82279. [project “Other Ranking Components”] We changed to fewer results for some queries to show the most relevant results as quickly as possible.
- #83709. [project “Other Ranking Components”] This change was a minor bug fix related to the way links are used in ranking.
- #82546. [project “Indexing”] We made back-end improvements to video indexing to improve the efficiency of our systems.
- #84010. [project “Page Quality”] We refreshed data for the “Panda” high-quality sites algorithm.
- #83777. [project “Synonyms”] This change made improvements to rely on fewer “low-confidence” synonyms when the user’s original query has good results.
- Imadex. [project “Freshness”] This change updated handling of stale content and applies a more granular function based on document age.
- #83761. [project “Freshness”] This change helped you find the latest content from a given site when two or more documents from the same domain are relevant for a given search query.
- #83443. [project “Knowledge Graph”] We added a lists and collections component to the Knowledge Graph.
- #83012. [project “Knowledge Graph] The Knowledge Graph displays factual information and refinements related to many types of searches. This launch extended the Knowledge Graph to English-speaking locales beyond the U.S.
- Knowledge Graph Carousel. [project “Knowledge Graph”] This change expanded the Knowledge Graph carousel feature globally in English.
- #83304. [project “Knowledge Graph”] This change updated signals that determine when to show summaries of topics in the right-hand panel.
Snippets & Sitelinks
- #83105. [project “Snippets”] We refreshed data used to generate sitelinks.
- #83442. [project “Snippets”] This change improved a signal we use to determine how relevant a possible result title actually is for the page.
- #82407. [project “Other Search Features”] For pages that we do not crawl because of robots.txt, we are usually unable to generate a snippet for users to preview what’s on the page. This change added a replacement snippet that explains that there’s no description available because of robots.txt.
- #83670. [project “Snippets”] We made improvements to surface fewer generic phrases like “comments on” and “logo” in search result titles.
- #84652. [project “Snippets”] We currently generate titles for PDFs (and other non-html docs) when converting the documents to HTML. These auto-generated titles are usually good, but this change made them better by looking at other signals.
- #84211. [project “Snippets”] This launch led to better snippet titles.
- #84460. [project “Snippets”] This change helped to better identify important phrases on a given webpage.
Query Intent & User Experience
- #83135. [project “Query Understanding”] This change updated term-proximity scoring.
- essence. [project “Autocomplete”] This change introduced entity predictions in autocomplete. Now Google will predict not just the string of text you might be looking for, but the actual real-world thing. Clarifying text will appear in the drop-down box to help you disambiguate your search.
- #83484. [project “Refinements”] This change helped users refine their searches to find information about the right person, particularly when there are many prominent people with the same name.
- TSSPC. [project “Spelling”] This change used spelling algorithms to improve the relevance of long-tail autocomplete predictions.
- #83406. [project “Query Understanding”] We improved our ability to show relevant Universal Search results by better understanding when a search has strong image intent, local intent, video intent, etc.
- #80435. [project “Autocomplete”] This change improves autocomplete predictions based on the user’s Web History (for signed-in users).
- #83901. [project “Synonyms”] This change improved the use of synonyms for search terms to more often return results that are relevant to the user’s intention.
Other Search Updates
Google also referred to changes made over the past two months that they’d previously announced, including an update that made the number of valid copyright notices a ranking factor. They added Voice Search support for 13 additional languages, did a rebrand of the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, and announced that Google Trends and Search Insights had become one. One additional announcement concerned Flight Search optimization for tablet users.