While Google’s Penguin update, unnatural link warnings, two Panda refreshes, and a parking domain classifier issue made headlines in April, Google announced that is launched more than 50 other changes to its algorithm during the month.
Unfortunately, Google never provides transparency on exactly when their big lists of changes rolled out, so it’s quite possible some of them launched before, along with, or after Penguin. Penguin will take all the heat, but it’s possible one of these other changes may have impacted your site this month.
Authority & Domain Diversity
Google has tweaked a signal that will surface “more authoritative results.” This likely means that Google is looking to rank older domains that have strong link profiles and have avoided tactics Google considers spammy.
Want to learn more about domain authority? Check out our post “SEO & Link Building: The Domain Authority Factor”. Learn more on how to start building authority in “12 SEO Authority Building Tips”, “Using Social Media to Build Site Authority” and “Social Signals & SEO: Focus on Authority”.
Google also launched a change that aims to return more diverse search results by showing less results from the same domain. Related to that is a change to how Google categorizes paginated documents in an effort to reduce the possibility of a paginated series dominating the search results.
Search Term Scoring & Keyword Stuffing
Another change is in how Google has scores search terms for ranking. As Google explained:
“One of the most fundamental signals used in search is whether and how your search terms appear on the pages you’re searching. This change improves the way those terms are scored.”
On a related note, Google also updated a classifier to detect keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing was also mentioned as one of the key targets of the Penguin update.
Freshness Updates Continue
Three updates relate to Google's Freshness update, including how Google ranks and interprets new content, such as breaking news. Heading forward, Google will take a more “nuanced” approach to ranking changes based on “freshness factors.”
To accomplish this, Google has launched a change to one of the signals it uses to identify fresh documents. Additionally, Google has modified a classifier to identity and exclude content it decides is “particularly low-quality.”
Google has also tweaked how it determines relevancy for pages on individual web pages. Previously, Google detected only when a website, subdomain, or directory might be relevant to searchers based on their country. Now content from certain pages of one website might be relevant to one country, while other pages on the same site would be relevant to searchers in a different country.
Additionally, Google will now be more likely to show local versions of websites. For example, Google would show mexico.cnn.com to a searcher in Mexico rather than cnn.com.
Also, Google is now “more likely to rank the local navigational homepages in the top position” on navigational searches that include local navigational terms (e.g., Company + City, Company + ZIP Code) – even if the navigational page doesn’t mention the location.
Page Title Changes
Google has made it easier for its algorithm to change page titles. In addition to a technical change that “makes the process more efficient, saving tremendous CPU resources without degrading quality,” it now claims the ability to show “more informative titles and/or more concise titles with the same information.”
Google’s index size has grown by 15 percent. Every Google query is matched against this newly expanded index.
Additionally, Google has added a new tier to its index (Google keeps its “index in ‘tiers’ where different documents are indexed at different rates depending on how relevant they are likely to be to users). Along with that, Google has introduced its serving systems to reduce expenses and simplify code
Four changes are related to Google’s so-called megasitelinks, those big links that offer deeper links to pages on the same domain. Google is now showing sub-sitelinks instead of a snippet; introducing a “minimum score” for sitelinks; refreshing its offline process to generate the sitelinks; and rolling out a new technique to reduce snippet duplication.
Google also launched a change to better interpret the intention of search queries based on a user’s “last few searches.” Also known as query chains, these occur when a user enters a query, scans the page, and reformulates the query (sometimes multiple times) when Google fails to return the “right” result.
To trigger Instant Previews, you’ll now have to hover and pause over the icon to the right of the search result. Previously, Instant Previews were triggered by hovering over the larger button area.
And Many, Many, More…
For the full rundown of Google’s changes, which also include minor changes related to snippets, SafeSearch, sports search features, and spelling corrections (which were discussed in a search quality meeting video), you can check out Google’s post here.