It may be the middle of May, but a lot of people who work in SEO and other aspects of the online industry are still reflecting on April, a month that saw a huge amount of changes being made to Google's search algorithm, most importantly the so-called Penguin update.
But this was not the only change made to Google search last month, because as we were all a little sidetracked by Google Panda wandering into our midst and causing a bit of a stir as Panda had done a year previously, and another big thing to mention is that a further 52+ updates were also applied to the search giant's algorithm. You can read all of them here, on Google's official blog, but if you don't have the time, here are the most important updates.
Language-Relevant Navigational Results
Ideally, a user should be able to find the most relevant results for their search and their location, but Google has been aware that sometimes users have struggled to find the site they are looking for, especially when there are sites with a similar name available. As Google state:
"For navigational searches when the user types in a web address, such as [bol.com], Google will generally try to rank that web address at the top. However, this isn’t always the best answer. For example, bol.com is a Dutch page, but many users are actually searching in Portuguese and are looking for the Brazilian email service, http://www.bol.uol.com.br/. This change takes into account language to help return the most relevant navigational results."
To combat this, Google has introduced 'Country Identification for Webpages', which will help users find the results they're looking for by tailoring the results to their location. As they state:
"Location is an important signal we use to surface content more relevant to a particular country. For a while we’ve had systems designed to detect when a website, subdomain, or directory is relevant to a set of countries. This change extends the granularity of those systems to the page level for sites that host user generated content, meaning that some pages on a particular site can be considered relevant to France, while others might be considered relevant to Spain."
News and Freshness
It's a very well-known fact that Google likes fresh, relevant and well-written content, so it's no surprise that they have decided to make finding fresh content a priority for its users. In order to ensure that a user finds the freshest content possible, they have introduced smoother ranking changes for fresh results. As they state:
"We want to help you find the freshest results, particularly for searches with important new web content, such as breaking news topics. We try to promote content that appears to be fresh. This change applies a more granular classifier, leading to more nuanced changes in ranking based on freshness."
Google have also included an 'Improvement in a freshness signal', a minor change to their existing freshness signals that allows them to identify the freshest content, and perhaps most importantly, the 'No Freshness Boost for Low Quality Content'. This means that while they are promoting fresh content, they will actively be working to exclude content that they perceive as low quality from their search results. Keyword stuffing is also being tackled, as Google also announced that they had improved their keyword stuffing tool in order to find and remove sites with keyword stuffing from their search results.
Indexes are also getting a look in as they have unveiled plans to increase base index size by 15%. As they state:
"The base search index is our main index for serving search results and every query that comes into Google is matched against this index. This change increases the number of documents served by that index by 15%. *Note: We’re constantly tuning the size of our different indexes and changes may not always appear in these blog posts."
As well as the base search index increase, they are also introducing a 'New Index Tier'. Which is, as they explain:
"We keep our index in “tiers” where different documents are indexed at different rates depending on how relevant they are likely to be to users. This month we introduced an additional indexing tier to support continued comprehensiveness in search results."
This could mean the return of the supplemental index, because this suggests to me that low-quality pages are going to get indexed more but displayed less. If you're confused, remember to check the difference between how many pages Google says it has indexed for your site and how many it's displaying.
Sitelinks Data Refresh
Google have also announced changes to sitelinks, the links that appear beneath some search results and link deeper into the site, through the introduction of so-called "Sub-sitelinks" in expanded sitelinks. which allows them to dig deeper into megasitelinks by showing sub-sitelinks instead of the normal snippet. Sitelinks are also set to be ranked better, which will then ..."improve the ranking of megasitelinks by providing a minimum score for the sitelink based on a score for the same URL used in general ranking." They have also updated the datathat generates sitelinks through an offline process, these updates are due to happen frequently.
What do you think of all these changes at Google? Will they help or hinder your searches? Let us know!