How Google’s recent updates may impact your site

Posted on January 2, 2012 by

New Year, New Changes from Google

Google recently made some important changes to their search algorithm. We thought it would be nice to recap the current list and expand on the aspects that may directly impact your review site. Below is a list that appeared on Google’s Blog on Dec 11, 2011.

Here’s an updated list since our post on November 14th:

  • Related query results refinements: Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are similar to the actual search you type. This change makes it less likely that these results will rank highly if the original query had a rare word that was dropped in the alternate query. For example, if you are searching for [rare red widgets], you might not be as interested in a page that only mentions “red widgets.”
  • More comprehensive indexing: This change makes more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.
  • New “parked domain” classifier: This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites that are seldom useful and often filled with ads. They typically don’t have valuable content for our users, so in most cases we prefer not to show them.
  • More auto-complete predictions: With auto-complete, we try to strike a balance between coming up with flexible predictions and remaining true to your intentions. This change makes our prediction algorithm a little more flexible for certain queries, without losing your original intention.
  • More complete and fresh blog search results: We made a change to our blog search index to get coverage that is both fresher and more comprehensive.
  • Original content: We added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original one.
  • Live results for Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League: This change displays the latest scores & schedules from these leagues along with quick access to game recaps and box scores.
  • Image result freshness: We made a change to how we determine image freshness for news queries. This will help us find the freshest images more often.
  • Layout on tablets: We made some minor color and layout changes to improve usability on tablet devices.
  • Top result selection code rewrite: This code handles extra processing on the top set of results. For example, it ensures that we don’t show too many results from one site (“host crowding”). We rewrote the code to make it easier to understand, simpler to maintain and more flexible for future extensions.

While this list may be a few weeks old, I wanted to re-share it all and focus on three particular aspects that I think should have garnered more attention. Let’s start with this one:

More Comprehensive Indexing

More comprehensive indexing: This change makes more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.

What does this mean for your review site?

Search is evolving each and every day and searchers are becoming more sophisticated. Rewind for a moment to 4 or 5 years ago; a search for a “used  black Mercedes Benz 350 GL” may have been done by someone searching “Mercedes”. After a plethora of results that don’t provide an answer, most searchers probably became confused and submitted a lead to a 3rd party provider for this very same specific query.

Fast forward 3 years; now a searcher is likely to be much more knowledgeable in how searches typically work. They might type, “Used Mercedes GL” or something close, but they may still be inundated with searches that didn’t reflect their intent. The user is smarter but might need a little more insight as to how search works or perhaps Google has evolved and made search a little easier.

Nowadays, when a user types “used black Mercedes Benz 350 GL in Miami, low mile, navigation”, they are delivered results that they can actually use. Let’s shift the search gears for a moment to something that we know is getting more and more popular. A “geo specific” review of a business. How many of your searchers are entering a search for “Dallas Toyota Dealer Reviews” or “Joe Smith Dallas Toyota Reviews”? Or maybe even a more specific search term like “Park Cities Toyota Dealer reviews”, or “Plano Toyota Dealership complaints”. Check a search for your business and see what shows up on the page one search results. Presto Reviews customers now have an automatic tool that will help index for these types of searches.

Auto-Complete Predictions

More Auto-Complete Predictions: With auto-complete, we try to strike a balance between coming up with flexible predictions and remaining true to your intentions. This change makes our prediction algorithm a little more flexible for certain queries, without losing your original intention.

What does this mean for your review site?

Turn on the auto complete feature and start typing your business’ name. Add a different first letter following the completion of the business name to see what Google may present as a suggested search. Does the word “Complaints” or “Reviews” show up? There is a very good chance that it does. If there is a negative connotation to your name, it is inevitable that shoppers will click on the suggestion. People tend to click on “Joe Smith Toyota Complaints“, based on curiosity, compared to the result, “Joe Smith Toyota Reviews”. Knowing this, have you started using effective meta description to ensure that your positive reviews are being delivered as a result? Do you have any You Tube videos of customers that could be labeled complaints that are in fact positive testimonials? It would show your prospective clients  (who have yet to buy from you), that you take customer service seriously.

Fresher Blog Search Results

More complete and fresh blog search results: We made a change to our blog search index to get coverage that is both contemporary and more comprehensive.

What does this mean for your review site?
“Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh.” – Amit Singhal, Google Fellow

Google’s Freshness update means that content on a site that is being updated regularly will get preferential treatment in search. As they explained on their blog , the Freshness Update will serve the latest results for queries that are time-sensitive—recent events or trending topics, regularly recurring events (like elections and major sporting events), and frequent updates (information that often changes, but isn’t necessarily a “hot topic” like reviews on new technology). Or perhaps reviews of your business? No one knows for sure, but it is a logical assumption that a current review is the “freshest” opinion available about your business. Certainly good for users to know this. So with this update, an article from an authoritative website that has regularly updated contents (reviews) about your business could receive preferential treatment.

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