Google Search Quality Highlights of April, 2012

This April, Google initiated 52+ changes in their search feature, including the “Penguin” algorithm update to help propel quality sites to the top of the rankings while penalizing lower-quality content. All changes are meant to improve user experience and bring up more relevant results to search queries.

One key change is a shift towards localization. Now, when users search for organizations, they are more likely to pull up websites intended for their specific region. Local services will be pushed to the top of navigation pages even when the search query does not specify a location.

In addition, local searches are now more comprehensive. Google has expanded autocomplete predictions to include small, neighborhood businesses as well as building addresses.

Autocomplete predictions have also been tweaked to weed out low-quality search results, helping the user find more relevant pages.

Google also launched improvements in titles, making title generation more efficient as well as providing more concise and specific titles, which are both shorter and more informative.

One change likely to have broad effects on webspam is the improvement of the keyword stuffing classifier. Keyword stuffing is the practice of cramming as many search terms as possible onto a page in an attempt to come up in more searches. While Google already had anti-keyword stuffing programs in place, the improvements will catch more offenders. The codename for this launch is, appropriately, “Spam.”

Another change, cryptically codenamed “Bi02sw41,” affects how Google scores search terms that appear in Web pages. It will improve how the search engine interprets the way terms are used in a page, and whether they are used at all.

Google also fixed an anchor bug, which affects the way the search engine deals with anchor text. Anchor text is the word or phrase attached to a link, and is what the viewer sees in place of the URL.

Another change affects the handling of snippets. When the beginning of a page is particularly relevant to the search query, the reader is now more likely to see the first snippet on their search screen.

Google is also emphasizing rewards for fresh content by placing pages with new additions at the top of the list. However, they also made a change to penalize fresh content of poor quality, so that relevant information must be added in order to benefit from page updating.