Google Releases April Updates to Algorithm, Index

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It’s that time again: Google had released its monthly report on the changes made to its index and algorithm in April, and we’re assessing the biggest shifts. At Google’s Inside Search blog, they highlighted the 52 changes that were made in the past month.

April was a hectic month for search engine marketers and content managers. Panda updates 3.5 and 3.6 were released within 8 days of one another, the Penguin update targeted “webspam” and had the community in an uproar over the over-optimization penalty, and Google made a huge misstep with regards to parked domains.

Here are some of the most significant changes made:

  • Categorizing paginated documents [codename: Xirtam3] will help surface more diverse results, even when dominant documents contain multiple URLs and span several pages. The topic was also addressed on the Webmaster Central Blog.
  • Country identification for webpages [codename: sudoku] will assist users in finding content that’s relevant, regardless of its country of origin.
  • Anchors bug fix [codename: anchors] – not much is known about this fix, as Google rarely gives much information on bugs or changes when they don’t have to.
  • More domain diversity [codename: horde] will help prevent results from becoming crowded by one dominant domain.
  • Improvement in freshness signals [codename: Freshness] will help better identify fresher content, however, a modifier was introduced so that low-quality content would not receive a freshness boost.
  • More text from the page in snippets [codename: Snippets] will help users better identify if a page is relevant to what the user is searching for.
  • Better query interpretation [no codename] will help Google’s engines better interpret the intention of a query based on previous searches.
  • More comprehensive predictions for local queries [codename: Autocomplete] will expand coverage for long-tail U.S. search queries looking for local businesses and addresses. The change also includes limiting low-quality recommendations for autcomplete results.
  • The index base was increased by 15% [codename: indexing] – this is the main index for turning out search results and every query that comes through Google is matched against the index. Despite the Penguin updates and some complaining of being de-indexed by Google, this change goes to show that more is being added to the index regularly.
  • A new index tier [codename: cantina] was added to the search results hierarchy in an effort to help match documents to the users who are looking for them.
  • Improved HTML5 resource caching for mobile users [no codename] will reduce the latency of mobile search results pages. Whoo!
  • Keyword stuffing classifier improvement [codename: spam] will augment the engine’s ability to detect a website that is keyword stuffing, a big no-no in the new and improved, post-Panda world of SEO.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the changes that were made in April, and more are probably being unveiled as we speak.

As a courtesy, Google releases a regular monthly update on the changes that they make to their database, but these reports are often vague and brief, so you should always keep an eye on your analytics and traffic to check for impacts on your web properties.

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