Google, in true form, has not slowed down the number of changes and refinements it carries out on search each month. There were 65 changes made over August and September and each of them is going to impact on the search results displayed on the Google search results pages and the end-user behaviour.
01. #82862. [project “Page Quality”] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
What it means: Page quality has been something Google has been looking at ever since the Panda Update in March 2011. There are several elements in how this is assessed and it includes page design. The constant updates on this front being carried out by Google is the clearest indication you need that if your website is not delivering value in content, layout and graphic design, you should not expect to rank high in search.
02. #83197. [project “Autocomplete”] This launch introduced changes in the way we generate query predictions for Autocomplete.
What it means: Google is increasing the capability and range of its predictive engine. Query predictions in Google search have not just become faster but they are now pulling data from a fresher subset of search queries.
03. #83818. [project “Answers”] This change improved display of the movie showtimes feature.
What it means: Google has been ramping up its computational powers to deliver answers right on the search results page for queries which range from movie times and movie theatre locales to sports results and the weather. This has been announced in the previous updates that were reported. Now it is busy prettying up the results in order to get end-user appeal and greater engagement. This means that increasing number of users will start to treat Google search as an answers engine rather than a search engine. Contextually, for businesses, this also means that specific advertising options will make more sense in Google AdWords.
04. #83819. [project “Answers”] We improved display of the MLB search feature.
What it means: Google has put a considerable amount of work into displaying answer to sports queries, including baseball. Sports queries are ‘social’ queries in that they drive search habits and have no profit motive (mostly). They condition search users to trust a particular search engine for quick, accurate results with the minimum hassle. Google’s focus on this is part of its drive for an incremental increase in the online search market share.
05. #83820. [project “Answers”] This change improved display of the finance search feature.
What it means: Finance is another big social search. Those who search want fast, accurate answers and those queries which can be answered right on the search results page generate a lot of goodwill and contribute to search loyalty for Google.
06. #83384. [project “Universal Search”] We made improvements to driving directions in Turkish.
What it means: Over the last four-five months Google has began to decrease the time lag in roll outs between Google focused on English and the Google search experience in other languages. In many ways this reflects the fact that Google is a mature product in English-speaking countries and needs to achieve loyalty in other countries and languages. Turkish is now one of them.
07. #83459. [project “Alternative Search Methods”] We added support for answers about new stock exchanges for voice queries.
What it means: Google is beefing up its alternative methods for search which include Voice command at the desktop Google search page. Voice search is going to be a key feature in the mobile search battleground and here, Google is beginning the education process early.
08. LTS. [project “Other Ranking Components”] We improved our web ranking to determine what pages are relevant for queries containing locations.
What it means: In keeping with the mobile search theme Google is making personalized search more relevant even at desktop UI level. Localisation (a trend that has been evident in search since 2005) is now given ever increasing gravity.
09. Maru. [project “SafeSearch”] We updated SafeSearch to improve the handling of adult video content in videos mode for queries that are not looking for adult content.
What it means: Part of the end-user experience is the ability to use Google search in a work environment confident that no embarrassing slip ups will get through the Safe Search filter. Google is really tightening up on this.
10. #83135. [project “Query Understanding”] This change updated term-proximity scoring.
What it means: This is part of the refinements Google is making to its advanced search functions to deliver higher quality results. Term-proximity scoring is a search function that’s based on the assumption that the proximity of the words in a document implies a relationship between those words. Google looks at the proximity between words where the space between them is either spaces or characters and compares them in different documents (i.e. web pages) so that it can then discard the ones where the words merely appear to be contained in the body text but not in an implied relationship basis. To give an example the search query: “Little Red Riding Hood” can be answered by web pages containing the similar phrases “Little Red wearing homemade Riding Hood” and “Riding Hood on Little Red” but not by a web page where the words ‘red’, ‘little’ ‘riding’ and ‘hood’ appear scattered somewhere in a text 1,500 words long. For webmasters using keywords to answer specific search queries on their websites the focus has to be on closely matching what they think their potential audience is now looking for.
11. #83659. [project “Answers”] We made improvements to display of the local time search feature.
What it means: Time search is another one of those habit-forming, loyalty-inducing search patterns end-users fall into. Google is making sure it is fast, accurate and as pretty as possible, with the answer displayed right on the search results pages.
12. #83105. [project “Snippets”] We refreshed data used to generate sitelinks.
What it means: Sitelinks (the additional links about a website that appear in search directly under the main site) are important to Google because they increase the click-through-rate (CTR) on websites and satisfaction with users, on the quality of the search results.
13. Imadex. [project “Freshness”] This change updated handling of stale content and applies a more granular function based on document age.
What it means: Google draws these automatically in relation to search queries and has now refreshed the algorithm to take into account the fresheness of the page. This also puts webmasters under some pressure to make sure that relevant content on their websites is up to date and there is some fresh content creation going on.
14. #83613. [project “Universal Search”] This change added the ability to show a more appropriately sized video thumbnail on mobile when the user clearly expresses intent for a video.
What it means: Mobile usage is growing. The number of mobile active devices outstripped PCs last year and shows no signs of slowing. Google is intent on safeguarding the end-user experience there, also. The ability to watch video on your mobile, from links, is crucial and Google is working to make the experience a smooth one. This also means that webmasters should think about multimedia content on their mobile sites if they are separate to their normal websites.
15. #83443. [project “Knowledge Graph”] We added a lists and collections component to the Knowledge Graph.
What it means: Google’s Knowledge Graph http://googleblog.blogspot.gr/2012/08/building-search-engine-of-future-one.html is very much about building a search engine that truly understand what you ask. The Knowledge Graph connects relevant items of data across the web and presents them in search in a relevant way so that it increases both the potential accuracy of results and the end-user satisfaction in that they will not need to retype a different search query to get related answers. Lists and collections of items in Google’s data universe are created once the relationship between entities is understood.
16. #83442. [project “Snippets”] This change improved a signal we use to determine how relevant a possible result title actually is for the page.
What it means: Google has reserved the right to pull snippets from page content and display them in search in relation to a search query. In practice this increases relevancy and leads to more click throughs.
17. #83012. [project “Knowledge Graph] The Knowledge Graph displays factual information and refinements related to many types of searches. This launch extended the Knowledge Graphto English-speaking locales beyond the U.S.
What it means: In August Google announced that it was rolling out the Knowledge Graph http://helpmyseo.com/google-news/805-google-rolls-out-knowledge-graph-search-results-to-a-uk-audience.html to the UK search audience. Google’s Knowledge Graph is a real big deal in search. Google is rapidly expanding it outside the US with the only bottleneck being how quickly they can get relevant data to support it.
18. #84063. [project “Answers”] We added better understanding of natural language searches for the calculator feature, focused on currencies and arithmetic.
What it means: Conversions and calculations are becoming an increasing part of the utilitarian way we use Google (along with spelling corrections and dictionary definitions). Google is beefing up its calculating power, making its search function more intelligent, in the process.
19. [project “User Context”] We improved the precision and coverage of our system to help you find more relevant local web results. Now we’re better able to identify web results that are local to the user, and rank them appropriately.
What it means: Local search is incredibly important both to Google and the end-user. Google’s data on local is getting better and better, not least because it is so heavily featured in Google mobile search. This also shows that webmasters who trade locally and have not optimised their websites for Google’s Local Search are missing out on an important slice of the action.
20. essence. [project “Autocomplete”] This change introduced entity predictions in autocomplete. Now Google will predict not just the string of text you might be looking for, but the actual real-world thing. Clarifying text will appear in the drop-down box to help you disambiguate your search.
What it means: This shows the direction Google is heading towards in regards to search. Basically the search giant wants us all to use search to get answers not just links which we then have to go through in order to find the possible answer to our query. To achieve this Google is pulling together all the data it can lay its hands on and cross-referencing it with our individual search activity, interactions and social signal to create a real definition for words (the so called ‘entities’). All these changes together, right now, are making search much more responsive to the individual user. The net effect will be a more persistent use of Google search (provided the relevance keeps on improving) and a greater capture of the global search market.
21. #83821. [project “Answers”] We introduced better natural language parsing for display of the conversions search feature.
What it means: Conversions, whether they be grams to ounces, dollars to Euros, or Celsius to Fahrenheit are amongst the most frustrating of searches. Normally we are looking for a quick answer, are short of time and have absolutely no idea how accurate or ‘good’ the websites we will go to, will be. Google has been working to take the uncertainty out of all this by carrying out conversions right on the search results pages and giving us the answers. These changes fine-tune this by creating a better understanding of the natural language in the search query. Currently if you type “Convert X to Y” where X and Y are currency, units of measurement or temperature into Google search you will get fields where you can type the values and get an answer right there and then.
22. #82279. [project “Other Ranking Components”] We changed to fewer results for some queries to show the most relevant results as quickly as possible.
What it means: Google is changing its ranking components and, judging by the variety of search results we’ve seen in tests recently, has been experimenting with a variety of ranking signals (which are not yet official Ranking Factors) such as the social signal, Authorship, trust rank, reputation and so on. As the year goes on we will see more and more of these.
23. #82407. [project “Other Search Features”] For pages that we do not crawl because of robots.txt, we are usually unable to generate a snippet for users to preview what's on the page. This change added a replacement snippet that explains that there's no description available because of robots.txt.
What it means: Google respects webmaster-defined restrictions in the websites it crawls. This is a new feature which informs the end-user that the lack of descriptive snippets in pages is not because of Google but because of the website in question. As Google begins to create traditional ‘brand value’ in its activities, expect to see more examples of such behaviour popping up.
24. #83709. [project “Other Ranking Components”] This change was a minor bug fix related to the way links are used in ranking.
What it means: Links continue to play a role in search ranking for websites. Although it is difficult to say just what effect this bug fix will have on search ranking the sure thing is that links are not as effective as they once were when it comes to ranking a website and they wil continue to deprecate.
25. #82546. [project “Indexing”] We made back-end improvements to video indexing to improve the efficiency of our systems.
What it means: Video, traditionally a ‘blind’ data pool for Google is becoming increasingly visible to its bot.
26. Palace. [project “SafeSearch”] This change decreased the amount of adult content that will show up in Image Search mode when SafeSearch is set to strict.
What it means: Video indexing always comes with the added risk of exposing (pun unintended) adult content. Google is in a bit of a bind here. It needs to index as much video as possible as comprehensively as possible but it needs to do it with a high degree of accuracy so that nothing slips through the ‘Safe Search’ filter and creates awkward workplace situations. Google continuous to tighten up things here.
27. #84010. [project “Page Quality”] We refreshed data for the "Panda" high-quality sites algorithm.
What it means: The Panda algorithm update which started in February 2012 has undergone a number of reiterations and refinements in the Google universe. Bearing in mind that the entire point of this update has been to reward high quality websites it has raised a lot of questions in webmasters’ and SEO’s minds on just how an algorithmic assessment of ‘quality’ is possible. The answer, of course, has been similar to what Google does all along: accumulate vast reams of data, categorize it based according to its understanding of end-user behaviour and decide on quality according to parameters accumulated over tens of thousands of websites. Bottom line is that if you have a website design which does not engage the online visitor (and you should be able to assess this from your Analytics) then Google is unlikely to find your website to be of ‘High Quality’.
28. #84083. [project “Answers”] This change improved the display of the movie showtimes search feature.
What it means: Every time Google has made changes to its search this year, it has improved how it calculates and displays answers to questions regarding films. We use Google to find quick, practical, entertainment-orientated information. This helps make the Google search page sticky and increases its market share and brand power. Expect more and more refinements like this in the near future.
29. gresshoppe. [project “Answers”] We updated the display of the flight search feature for searches without a specified destination.
What it means: There is a lot of end-user focus on the very utilitarian search for flights. Google has been making changes to this for over a year now and it is adding a lot more weight to it because of the search volume impact.
30. #83670. [project “Snippets”] We made improvements to surface fewer generic phrases like "comments on" and "logo" in search result titles.
What it means: Snippets play a very important part in SEO (for webmasters) and end-user satisfaction (for Google) because they increase the click-through-rate (CTR) and lead to a better, overall search experience. Google already reserves the right to display snippets description that closely matches the search query, pulled from existing page content. This is a further refinement of this ability which stops the display of snippets that are pulled from the site but bear little relevance to the search query.
31. #83777. [project “Synonyms”] This change made improvements to rely on fewer "low-confidence" synonyms when the user's original query has good results.
What it means: Google is actually narrowing down the range of options it gives us in search. It is improving the signals it uses to assess the quality of related results and narrows down the choices offered by synonyms through a ‘confidence’ filter where synonyms that might have appeared as possible choices now will not if Google has not confidence in the quality of the result. In practice this should mean that search results for words where some degree of ambiguity exists should improve.
32. #83377. [project “User Context”] We made improvements to show more relevant local results.
What it means: Google is increasing the pull of the personal data cloud to produce local results which may be more relevant to a search query. Local search now plays an ever increasing role in the effectiveness of SEO and the traffic it delivers to websites. The contextual clues Google uses to decide are a mix of past personal search history (and data) and social media interactions and (increasingly) mobile search.
33. #83484. [project “Refinements”] This change helped users refine their searches to find information about the right person, particularly when there are many prominent people with the same name.
What it means: The hardest thing in search is finding people. There is an incredible amount of ambiguity Google needs to shift through to present relevant results and here it really proves the quality of its search and provides many clues as to where data is pulled from. Our personal search, contacts (even Gmail ones), social media connections and social media interactions, plus the connections and interactions others have with us (which we may not reciprocate it but are still noted and assessed). Does this paint a complex picture? Yes, it does and it shows you exactly where the web is heading towards.
34 #82872. [project “SafeSearch”] In "strict" SafeSearch mode we remove results if they are not very relevant. This change previously launched in English, and this change expanded it internationally.
What it means: Relevancy scoring is getting tighter and stricter, particularly in Safe Search where Google is keen to safeguard the Google Search workplace experience. This must mean that Google is using a more granular approach to determine the relevancy score of specific results.
35. Knowledge Graph Carousel. [project “Knowledge Graph”] This change expanded the Knowledge Graph carousel feature globally in English.
What it means: Google is expanding its Knowledge Graph display globally (previously only the US was getting the benefit of this) and it’s using data to increase relevancy.
36. Sea. [project “SafeSearch”] This change helped prevent adult content from appearing when SafeSearch is in "strict" mode.
What it means: Adult content filtering in Google’s Safe Search featured heavily in August. This is to be expected if Google search results are to become the de facto choice in an office environment with greater use of video and images.
37. #84259. [project “Autocomplete”] This change tweaked the display of real-world entities in autocomplete to reduce repetitiveness. With this change, we don't show the entity name (displayed to the right of the dash) when it's fully contained in the query.
What it means: Google’s autocomplete function in search, drawing data from millions of search queries across the web to help fill in the search query as you type, is an eloquent display of Google’s data-crunching might.
38. TSSPC. [project “Spelling”] This change used spelling algorithms to improve the relevance of long-tail autocomplete predictions.
What it means: Here Google is not just refining long-tail keywords in autocomplete but it is also refining autocomplete for entities now (its understanding of the real-world meaning of words) which suggests that its semantic index data is accumulating fast.
39. #83689. [project “Page Quality”] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
What it means: Google is fast creating an index of ‘trusted sources’. Some of these are gauged based on what must be the first trust rank signals (not yet official ranking factors) Google is experimenting with and others must be from Google’s data of what is shared, re-shared, socialised and visited frequently.
40. #84068. [project “Answers”] We improved the display of the currency conversion search feature.
What it means: Google’s currency conversion now rocks! Put “Convert X to Y” where X and Y are currency units in Google search and right there on the Google search results page you have the latest conversion rates (including a handy chart) and then you have two fields where you can input currency and get a real-time conversion rate. This is going to significantly increase the utilitarian nature of Google search which means that whatever the competition may be doing (you know, BING and maybe …. Yahoo) it is unlikely to draw much attention from the big G.
41. #84586. [project “Other Ranking Components”] This change improved how we rank documents for queries with location terms.
What it means: Google’s local search is taking into account localisation signals found in web pages. Google is improving and refining this all the time. If you are running a local business and have not yet taken advantage of Google’s Local Search then now’s the time to start optimizing your website for it.
42. Dot. [project “Autocomplete”] We improved cursor-aware predictions in Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. Suppose you're searching for "restaurants" and then decide you want "Italian restaurants." With cursor-aware predictions, once you put your cursor back to the beginning of the search box and start typing "I," the prediction system will make predictions for "Italian," not completions of "Irestaurants."
What it means: Google is slowly building a predictive engine as opposed to a reactive search engine which gives you search results after you have typed in a search query. Google has data which shows that predictive search is popular, delivers better results and increases end-user confidence and satisfaction.
43. #84288. [project “Autocomplete”] This change made improvements to show more fresh predictions in autocomplete for Korean.
What it means: The autocomplete function in Google search is a big winner with end users. Google is expanding it in languages other than English. The search giant has got very good at closing the time lag between features and improvements which appear in Google search for English speakers and those of other languages.
44. trafficmaps. [project “Universal Search”] With this change, we began showing a traffic map for queries like "traffic from A to B" or "traffic between A and B."
What it means: If you needed confirmation that Google aims to become the one-shop-stop for practically any info-based query (or activity) in your life, this is it. Type as it suggests above substituting real locations for ‘A’ and ‘B’ and you will get a thumbnail map, distance between the two points, estimated travelling time and a link, directly to Google Maps for detailed directions. In the past this used to take several steps where you’d have to get to Google Maps, find the right subset and the type in the location in a trial and error way trying to ping the right entry in the Google database. No more.
45. #84394. [project “Page Quality”] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
What it means: High-quality websites (and how that is really decided is an art in itself and still being debated at the moment) continue to get treated better in search. They get indexed more frequently and their content will be served more often. So the question for a webmaster has to be just how do you convince Google that your website is a high quality website? Well, original content, in-depth expertise and the kind of design that does not piss-off your visitors are the ticket (and I am painting in very broad strokes here). Essentially this has to be the same question you’d ask yourself before you go into business: Why are you here? If you cannot satisfactorily project the answer (yet) in everything you do online then you’d better start.
46. #84652. [project “Snippets”] We currently generate titles for PDFs (and other non-html docs) when converting the documents to HTML. These auto-generated titles are usually good, but this change made them better by looking at other signals.
What it means: Google generates snippets for non-HTML documents which do not really have any metadata associated with them, by examining the content and matching the generated snippet displayed in the results with the search query. This usually leads to higher click through rates (CTRs). The trick here is to make it very relevant and Google is working at making sure it understands the content of non-HTML documents. In the meantime the snippets are prettier to look at.
47. #83761. [project “Freshness”] This change helped you find the latest content from a given site when two or more documents from the same domain are relevant for a given search query.
What it means: Whether you like it or not Google is forcing you to become a publisher. If you are online and your competitor has better, fresher content than you. Irrespective of the quality of your pages the more recent ones will trump yours. This is not always the case but it is generally true enough to make content creation one of the driving engines of the new SEO. The lesson here for webmasters is that if you are serious about getting traffic and ranking on Google search you really need to have a content creation strategy in place.
48. #83406. [project “Query Understanding”] We improved our ability to show relevant Universal Search results by better understanding when a search has strong image intent, local intent, video intent, etc.
What it means: Google has worked hard to actually understand when it should pull data from Google Local Search and when to pull data from Google Universal Search. In the past, an end-user looking, for example, for pizza (as opposed to pizza restaurants) would have been shown local pizzerias based on Google’s understanding of his locality as opposed to websites which may have had pizza recipes or a history of pizza. This situation has got a little bit better as Google works through its accumulated knowledge of your personal search history and search patterns (this is really important) to understand your intentions and give you the right results at the right time.
49 espd. [project “Autocomplete”] This change provided entities in autocomplete that are more likely to be relevant to the user's country. See blog post for background.
What it means: The autocomplete feature in Google search which completes the results as you type them in (which has, so far, helped increase end-user satisfaction with Google search) would be next to useless if it showed you, for instance, only autocomplete results based on bulk popularity. With that logic the things which people looked for in countries were web use is very widespread (like America) or where web users are numerous (like China) would show up in autocomplete suggestions for people in, let’s say, Chile or Greece, deprecating the value of the feature. Google is working hard to use a number of factors that include personal data, past search history, search patterns and location, to make autocomplete suggestions that are relevant to the country in question and more likely to satisfy the end-user and meet their search needs.
50. #83391. [project “Answers”] This change internationalized and improved the precision of the symptoms search feature.
What it means: Google’s accumulated data of global searches tell it what any forum user has known since 1995: that when it comes to looking up symptoms of health-related issues we may experience we go on the web, type in and look and look and look. Google is now making this search for ailments we have that we worry might kill us, easier. Type in the symptoms right in the search box and Google will act as a first-base diagnosis giving you a list of conditions which may help you refine the search and get to the tricky bit of finding the right answer, faster. Apart from the fact that this is yet one more step towards Google search becoming indispensable in our lives it also shows the value of having up-to-date, detailed, keyword-rich information on your website.
51. #82876. [project “Autocomplete”] We updated autocomplete predictions when predicted queries share the same last word.
What it means: This is another refinement of Google’s autocomplete feature. It should lead to autocomplete suggestions that are more relevant to the end-user.
52. #83304. [project “Knowledge Graph”] This change updated signals that determine when to show summaries of topics in the right-hand panel.
What it means: Google’s Knowledge Graph is expanding. Its accuracy and relevancy is a matter of accumulating data, categorising it and successfully refining it through contextualised filtering and connections. We are beginning to see the results of all this, now.
53. #84211. [project “Snippets”] This launch led to better snippet titles.
What it means: Snippet relevancy and appeal is getting better. Google understands how important snippets are when it comes to click through rates (CTRs) and is working to improve them.
54. #81360. [project “Translation and Internationalization”] With this launch, we began showing local URLs to users instead of general homepages where applicable (e.g. blogspot.ch instead of blogspot.com for users in Switzerland). That’s relevant, for example, for global companies where the product pages are the same, but the links for finding the nearest store are country-dependent.
What it means: If you happen to get on a website which is powered, for instance, by Google’s Blogger platform, instead of seeing the .com or .co.uk extension that its owner has in place, you will see, instead, a .ch, .gr, or whatever extension is local to the country you happen to be in. This is part of Google’s localisation drive.
55. #81999. [project “Translation and Internationalization”] We revamped code for understanding which documents are relevant for particular regions and languages automatically (if not annotated by the webmaster).
What it means: Google’s drive to “index the world’s information” would make little sense if the company could not understand it, even if webmasters have left few clues for it. This is a refinement designed to allow Google to make better sense of the documents it indexes which have no metadata associated with them. It’s not a carte blanche for lazy webmasters to do even less than they already do. Even though Google is getting smarter you still need to try and make it as easy as possible for your pages to get indexed.
56. Cobra. [project “SafeSearch”] We updated SafeSearch algorithms to better detect adult content.
What it means: This is the fifth SafeSearch update Google made in August and September. If this is not enough to tip you off on the weight Google places on its search engine being the instinctive choice for the workplace, I do not know what is.
57. #937372. [project “Other Search Features”] The translate search tool is available through the link "Translated foreign pages" in the sidebar of the search result page. In addition, when we guess that a non-English search query would have better results from English documents, we'll show a feature at the bottom of the search results page to suggest users try the translate search tool. This change improved the relevance of when we show the suggestion.
What it means: Google has always been able to read foreign language text and match it to English-language queries. However relevant those pages may be, they are of scant use to the end-user when they are not translated into English. By reducing the number of steps required to do that translation Google now improves the click through rate (CTR) for non-English language pages that appear in response to English language search queries and increases end-user satisfaction.
58. #84460. [project “Snippets”] This change helped to better identify important phrases on a given webpage.
What it means: Google is continually refining its ability to display meaningful snippets in relation to a search query. This really only works when Google can match well the page it displays, the information contained on that page and the end-user search query. In this refinement it is trying to better identify relevant phrases on a web page, for better results.
59. #80435. [project “Autocomplete”] This change improves autocomplete predictions based on the user's Web History (for signed-in users).
What it means: When you carry out a search and are signed in to your Google Account your web history becomes part of Google’s knowledge of your personal data cloud which then is used to shape the search results you see on the Google search results page. This includes the suggestions made in the auto-complete feature as you type a search query. The value of this for webmasters lies in understanding the popularity of certain phrases and terms in relation to what their websites sell (or offer). Ideally you want to have optimised your website for popular search terms likely to be used by an end-user such as “iPhone repair in Oregon” if you happen to live in Oregon and offer iPhone repair as a living. You get the gist.
60. #83901. [project “Synonyms”] This change improved the use of synonyms for search terms to more often return results that are relevant to the user's intention.
What it means: Google’s Intention Engine continues to receive the benefit of algorithmic refinements designed to make it look more intuitive.
What it means: Google is using a variety of signals to create a two-tier web (maybe even a three-tier one) where the top tier is reserved for ‘high quality websites’. One of these signals now is the number of copyright violation complaints it receives for a particular website which would affect its rank and even the crawl rate at which Google pulls its content and indexes it. This is a reminder for webmasters to avoid infringing on copyright if they are keen to maintain their Google search rankings.
62. Voice Search arrives in 13 new languages.
What it means: Although this feature appears as an aside as we get down the long list of Google SEO changes for August and September it is every bit as important as all the others. If anything it actually is more important. Voice search is a vertical silo as far as data is concerned. Apple’s Siri (and its use) has the potential to lock Google out of an incredible valuable ecosystem and here Google has been working hard to make real inroads. Its voice search (which makes total sense in mobile) is also available for Desktop and Google knows that it needs to be as fast, relevant and easy to use in voice search as it is in conventional search. Google has expanded voice search to work in 13 languages to date, so, here we are.
63. Structured Data and Your Site
What it means: Google is increasingly focusing on structured data from websites, mainly because right now it is using that as an aid to building a better picture of the ‘entities’ it forms in its index. It would not surprise me if the presence or lack of structured data became a high-quality website signal much like having a mobile site did. At the moment structured data on a website is not a critical requirement for indexing but it is something that webmasters should keep in mind.
64. The New Google Search Trends
What it means: Google is always served well when webmasters make the effort to create content that fits in with their websites and answers end-user search queries best. The Google search trends is a tool which allows webmasters to actually get a better grip on what’s trending on Google search. It presents various levels of granularity and is totally worth keeping an eye on.
65. Flight information on Tablets
What it means: Tablets are fast overtaking PCs and desktop devices as the means through which most data is consumed. Tablets have been key to searches regarding flights and Google is carving out a chunk for itself there. This new feature allows tab owners to get flight information much more easily and also explore additional flight routes.
It is interesting to see that Google is now in the process of refining some aspects of Semantic Search. It is busy beefing up its knowledge graph and, as expected is working in the mobile search area. What is interesting in the changes carried out over August and September is not so much their impact on SEO through programming, certainly that happened with Google’s focus on quality content, relevancy scoring and its indexing of quality websites, but its focus on changes which target or affect end-user behaviour.
SEO, without end-users is next to useless. Webmasters work to optimise their websites because Google controls the lion’s share of search and attracts the greatest number of online visitors which then puts it in the ideal position to funnel traffic to websites.
Google is aware of the importance of the end-user experience and is working hard to become a utility, used with hardly a thought, any time someone is looking for a quick answer: a flight, currency conversion, a metric conversion of some kind. It is expanding its ability to offer accurate results, fast, in a visually pretty, accessible manner. It is also targeting the end-user experience of visitors in non-English speaking countries.
All of the above changes made by Google are important so it is difficult to single any out for a special mention but I will do just that, not because the others are not important but because some changes made by Google indicate a strong strategic direction webmasters need to be aware of. In no particular order these are the focus on tablets, voice search and the speed at which Google is rolling out changes to non-English speaking audiences.
The first two of these are related. Tablets and voice search go hand-in-hand as does mobile and voice search. Google relies on end-user input for data which leads to both better results and further refinements of search. Apple’s Siri poses a threat Google knows it has to counter so it is working to make its voice search as fast, accurate and handy to use as the desktop version of Google search.
A lot of Google services are now being optimised for use on mobile devices. This should be a strong lead for webmasters who may not yet have mobile versions of their sites or apps to help them with content delivery to tab users. The fact that Google is also targeting non-English speakers and is bolstering its presence in other markets is good news for webmasters whose websites target a global audience.
Google’s handy translation function for content which is non-native to the end-user can, potentially lead to a greater reach and more visitors.
Over the last six months we have seen search beginning to slowly fragment. Desktop, mobile and now voice search represent different parts of the same whole but each is now beginning to be governed by its own dynamic. This makes SEO harder not because it becomes more technical (it doesn’t) but it does become more diffuse. If there is one single takeaway you should take from all these changes is that the end-user experience is paramount because that’s also what guides Google’s ranking (a slight over-simplification but true nevertheless).
Look at your site, your content and your overall navigation through the eyes of your target audience and work to make that experience for them as intuitive, trouble-free and rewarding as you can.