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Update: Google’s Search Quality Team Releases 40 Changes


 

In an effort to become more transparent, Google released 40 changes for February.

After a slew of erratic behavior, website owners became frustrated with Google’s incessant updates that downgraded their websites and cost them money and time. Even though updates like Panda seek to provide users with a greater search experience and force website owners to create quality content, it affects some high-quality websites in the process and forces them to undergo a re-establishment process.

It’s important to note that Google is constantly updating its algorithm and last year it made many changes unbeknownst to websites. But, this year, in response to users, Google is lifting the veil to its secret lair and revealing its activity to hungry webmasters.

The February updates show some interesting changes for the future, some that will affect many websites. Use the information to improve what you can and discard whatever doesn’t fit within your business model.

After looking through the updates, I noticed a few that would be beneficial to our readers. Here are some interesting new developments:

Links

The Link Evaluation update seems to be the topic of debate lately since Google so eloquently skirted around the issue. It mentioned a link analysis change but did not specify any details.

Here is the vague statement:

We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.

Not even the best SEO experts know exactly what Google has changed which has led to some speculation…

  • Devalued page rank
  • Devalued anchor text
  • Juice from rel no follow links
  • LSI keywords devalued

Honestly, I doubt anyone will ever know for sure because there are just some things Google must keep a secret so users don’t “game” the system. However, I have seen some good suggestions on the topic, like in this article12 Google Link Analysis Changes

Panda

Google referenced a refresh to Panda…

This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.

Panda 3.3 is now in session. It is not a completely new algorithm change, but a refresh. Essentially, Google runs the update again to refresh the search results.

According to Search Engine Land, this refresh took place on Feb. 28th. I saw a boost in one of my affiliate sites. Did you notice any changes?

Images

Google is expanding the size of the image index in Universal Search.

We launched a change to expand the corpus of results for which we show images in Universal Search. This is especially helpful to give more relevant images on a larger set of searches.

With the recent surge of sites like Pinterest, images are taking on a life of their own. This change should boost websites that utilize images as part of their marketing campaigns. Optimize your images with correct file names, alt tags and captions.

Freshness

Though Google introduced the freshness update late last year, it made mention of improvements.

We’ve applied new signals which help us surface fresh content in our results even more quickly than before.

With more improvements to the freshness update, Google is compelling website/blog owners to continue publishing content.

For bloggers, continue blogging as much as possible. For non-blog owners, get a blog. This is also one of my resolutions for 2012.

Local Search

Main ranking signals will now play a role in local search ranking.

This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

I can only assume that signals like social, links and content will now be incorporated into local search. Traditional SEO has had an influence on local search in the past, but it seems like Google is stepping it up. YouTube will play a role in this as well.

Did you notice any changes as a result of these updates? What will you change for 2012?

[Credits: Site-reference]

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