It has become a monthly drill now: Google posting their updates, the SEO community reporting on the updates. The ‘openness’ Google is giving us at least helps us bloggers to write about some things ;). But it also helps us get some insight in the number of changes Google is making daily. Last year at a conference I explained that Google makes over 500 changes a year. At this rate it is more like 700 changes which the search engine is making every year. This month Google announced another 52 changes. The biggest one off course being “Penguin”, which is not mentioned in the post as such, but is mentioned separately as “our latest algorithm improvement to help you find more high-quality sites“. All the changes are mentioned here, but I wanted to highlight a few which might be extra interesting to take a look at. Google clearly seems to have had a focus on local and fresh content push in the past month. Also we need to keep looking at our snippets.
Google has been focussing on local a lot in the past few years. This month they seemed to have been focussing on that even more. Another example is the change they made this month in the navigational results. What happens a lot is that people search for actual urls in Google, they are usually ranked top. Now Google decided to also look at where you are searching from so that you won’t get the ‘general’ site on top, but the actual country page. They also added “Country identification for webpages“, which has gotten the codename “sudoku“. This is an extension of what they already did, namely trying to figure out which country the site is intended for. Google now takes that a step further with figuring out where a page should rank better. This means that within sites pages can be relevant to different countries and can be recognized as such by Google. Specifically for the US Google also improved the “comprehensiveness of autocomplete predictions by expanding coverage for long-tail U.S. local search queries such as addresses or small businesses.” Other local changes are “Improvements to local navigational searches“, which will rank local navigational homepages higher, even when that page is not mentioning the location, and “More local sites from organizations“.
Several changes are also focussed on freshness. Google has improved the “freshness signal” so it can better determine what is fresh content and what isn’t, it also says it has implemented “smoother ranking changes for fresh results” which indicates they will be giving more priority to ‘breaking news’ kind of content. That also is shown in the streamlining of News Universal results and UI improvements for breaking news topics. But if you think you can win it with getting quick low quality content out there think again, because Google explicity says “No freshness boost for low-quality content“.
Snippets and sitelinks
A lot of attention this month also went to snippets and sitelinks. They already explained in a different blog last month that rich snippets have gotten an update to going global, they also worked on getting getting less snippet duplication in the expanded sitelinks. The sitelinks itself have gotten a fata refresh and megasitelinks now have improved ranking while “Sub-sitelinks” in expanded sitelinks means they are digging deeper into the megasitelinks.
Anchors bug fix
A few months ago Google mentioned they had changed ‘something’ to how they look at anchor texts. Because there were SEOs that saw changes in ranking afterwards it was presumed that Google would maybe find anchor text less important. But be aware: Google now says they fixed a bug when it comes to anchors, so the conclusions which had been drawn before might need to be reconsidered. Next to these changes Google made a lot of other small changes where “spelling” on an international level also seemed to have a rather big importance but also they added a lot of small features to make the SERPS even more ‘attractive’ for specific types of searches, like sporting events. Finally a small minor sentence is indicating that authority is still very important. Google says they want to show more “authoritative content“. They are not saying whether this is site authority or person authority, but it sure is something to keep an eye on.