Google’s Latest Algorithm Changes (Freshness Update Gets Updated)

    February 5, 2012
    Chris Crum

Google rolled out “Search Plus Your World” in January, but that’s not the only change they made to how they deliver search results. Not even close.

If you’ve been following, you may know that Google has been putting out blog posts the last few months highlighting some of the various algorithm changes they’ve made (without giving away the secret sauce of course). Here’s our coverage of last month’s updates.

Here’s what Google now lists for January:

  • Fresher results. [launch codename “nftc”] We made several adjustments to the freshness algorithm that we released in November. These are minor updates to make sure we continue to give you the freshest, most relevant results.
  • Faster autocomplete. [launch codename “Snappy Suggest”, project codename “Suggest”] We made improvements to our autocomplete system to deliver your predicted queries much faster.
  • Autocomplete spelling corrections. [launch codename “Trivial”, project codename “Suggest”] This is an improvement to the spelling corrections used in autocomplete, making those corrections more consistent with the spelling corrections used in search. This launch targets corrections where the spelling change is very small.
  • Better spelling full-page replacement. [launch codenames “Oooni”, “sgap”, project codename “Full-Page Replacement”] When we’re confident in a spelling correction we automatically show results for the corrected query and let you know we’re “Showing results for [cheetah]” (rather than, say, “cheettah”). We made a couple of changes to improve the accuracy of this feature.
  • Better spelling corrections for rare queries. This change improves one of the models that we use to make spelling corrections. The result is more accurate spell corrections for a number of rare queries.
  • Improve detection of recurrent event pages. [launch codename “neseda”] We made several improvements to how we determine the date of a document. As a result, you’ll see fresher, more timely results, particularly for pages discussing recurring events.
  • High-quality sites algorithm improvements. [launch codenames “PPtl” and “Stitch”, project codename “Panda”] In 2011, we launched the Panda algorithm change, targeted at finding more high-quality sites. We improved how Panda interacts with our indexing and ranking systems, making it more integrated into our pipelines. We also released a minor update to refresh the data for Panda.
  • Cross-language refinements. [launch codename Xiangfan] Previously, we only generated related searches based on the display language. With this change, we also attempt to auto-detect the language of the original query to generate related search queries. Now, a user typing a query in French might see French query refinements, even if her language is set to English.
  • English on Google Saudi Arabia. Users in Saudi Arabia can now more easily choose an English interface to search on
  • Improved scrolling for Image Search. Previously when you scrolled in Image Search, only the image results would move while the top and side menus were pinned in place. We changed the scrolling behavior to make it consistent with our main search results and the other search modes, where scrolling moves the entire page.
  • Improved image search quality. [launch codename “endearo”, project codename “Image Search”] This is a small improvement to our image search ranking algorithm. In particular, this change helps images with high-quality landing pages rank higher in our image search results.
  • More relevant related searches. Sometimes at the bottom of the screen you’ll see a section called “Searches related to” with other queries you may want to try. With this change, we’ve updated the model for generating related searches, resulting in more useful query refinements.
  • Blending of news results. [launch codename “final-destination”, project codename “Universal Search”] We improved our algorithm that decides which queries should show news results, making it more responsive to realtime trends. We also made an adjustment to how we blend news results in Universal Search. Both of these changes help news articles appear in your search results when they are relevant.
  • Automatically disable Google Instant based on computer speed. [project codename “Psychic Search”] Google Instant has long had the ability to automatically turn itself off if you’re on a slow internet connection. Now Instant can also turn itself off if your computer is slow. If Instant gets automatically disabled, we continue to check your computer speed and will re-enable Instant if your performance improves. We’ve also tweaked search preferencesso you can always have Instant on or off, or have it change automatically.

I thought it seemed like Google was placing a great deal of emphasis on recency. Now, we find out that they’ve made adjustments to the freshness update to make them even fresher and “more relevant”. I’m not sure that “more relevant” part is always working, however. Sometimes the freshest result isn’t the most relevant, and sometimes I think Google is showing results that would be better with less emphasis on freshness.


Other times, it can be helpful. I guess it does, to some extent, make up for Google’s lack of realtime search, which went away with the expiration of the company’s agreement with Twitter last year.

Again, to some extent. Not the full extent.

The “final-destination” update, which deals with how Google blends news results into the mix is worth noting as well. The fact that this is based around “realtime trends” seems to be another area where Google attempting to fill the void of realtime search.

Don’t expect Google to get Twitter-based realtime search back anytime soon. The two companies apparently won’t even talk to each other.

Note that the Panda update was also addressed.

Do you think Google’s recent changes have made results better? Let us know in the comments.