Google’s Feb. 2005 Update

It’s not your imagination. If you’ve noticed some changes to Google’s web search results over the past week, there has indeed been an update to how those results are generated.

The changes have kept various search forums buzzing with discussion over what’s happened. It’s not to the level of the big upset of the big December 2003 “Florida” update, but this February 2005 update is arguably the most talked about one since then.

“Things are always changing because we’re always looking for ways to improve our algorithms and scoring. Most of the changes are not due to nofollow, but we are already starting to see a positive impact from the adoption of nofollow,” said Google software engineer Matt Cutts.

Nofollow refers to the recent nofollow attribute that was introduced last month as a way for bloggers and others to help combat link spam.

So what were the changes? As is traditional for Google and the other major search engines, no specifics were provided.

Major Google Changes: Latent Semantic Analysis? from our forums recounts one popular bit of speculation that first drew a lot of attention last year. Is Google doing some type of analysis of pages to understand overall topics of what they might be about — meanings beyond the keywords on the page itself? Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) from our forum and Google Latent Semantic Indexing Technology from Aaron Wall provide some further background on the topic.

In general, when I looked at LSI as raised this time last year, my feeling was that for most site owners, even if it was being used, you’d have little control over influencing it. As long as you have pages rich in content, descriptive of the types of products, services or information you offer, your pages would already tap into meaning beyond keywords, if such analysis were happening.

As said, forum threads are hopping, if you want to contribute to discussions or read the speculation of others:

Want to chatter direct to Google? It’s set up a special email address if you want to contribute directly your thoughts and observations on the latest change. To do so, email No specific subject line is required. Keep these points in mind:

  • This is not a way to get indexing support. If you need that type of support, visit Google’s webmaster info section for answers to many questions. You can also send email describing your problem to, though responses are not guaranteed. Alternatively, try visiting our Google Web Search Forum where members offer advice to each other.
  • Google’s engineers will see the message and review them and make any changes they think may help the index overall.
  • If you love something, ensure you tell Google what the search query was you did and the page or pages you think shined.
  • If you hate something, again — tell Google the query you did and the page or pages that were disappointing.

The feedback will all be gathered to the review that Google already does of changes.

“We do in-depth testing of the changes we make to ensure that we’re improving our relevancy and results,” Cutts said.

One last bit of advice. Updates like this sometimes are still followed by a week or two of further significant tweaking. Google, of course, always is making changes to its ranking systems as a matter of course. But these may be more pronounced through the rest of this month — and it’s one reason why not to start running around immediately changing things, if you’ve had a ranking drop. As tweaks happen, you might find rankings return without any actions on your part.

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