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Brace yourselves: Google’s gone and unleashed another algorithm change. According to Google, the latest update will affect 35% of search engines– meaning that the latest update is bigger than Panda (which affected just 12%).
While Panda was primarily quality-based, Google’s latest update is all about freshness. In homemade cookies and in web searches, Google argues that fresher is better. The fresher the results, the more relevant the search returns.
If I search for “G.O.P. debates,” for example, the #1 search result is the 2012 Primary Debate Schedule and not a generic Wikipedia article on the Republican party. As Google noted in their blog, an “Olympics” search brings up results for the 2012, 2010, and 2016 Olympics before general articles on the Olympics or the ancient Olympics. In a nutshell, Google’s betting that users are looking for current or updated information more often than historical or generic information.
The algorithm builds off of Google’s Caffeine web indexing system from 2010. Caffeine allowed Google to continuously index the web in small pieces as opposed to embarking on massive, time-consuming layer updates. The new index lets Google index mass quantities of data every second– according to Google, if we were to translate the amount of data Caffeine can process in a single second to sheets of paper, the stack would be three miles long.
More indexing means quicker access to fresh content– and the new algorithm allows Google to flex Caffeine’s muscles in its search results.
Google’s algorithm announcement contained three kinds of updated search results: recent events, updated fields or topics, and recurring events.
If you search Google for “European debt crisis” or “Oklahoma earthquakes” today, you’re probably most interested in the newest updates or information on those ongoing stories. Google aims to present the latest updates in current events.
There are certain fields– technology, for example– that are constantly being updated. Search for HDTV reviews and you’re probably looking for updates on all televisions, including newly-released models. More recent reviews (with potential bug updates or bigger collections of reviews and ratings) will be more useful to a potential HDTV buyer.
If you’re searching for an event that happens every year (or every four years, such as the Olympics), you’re probably searching for info about the upcoming event– after all, you can’t attend a conference that happened six months ago, right?
If I’m searching for “Comic-Con” or “Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade,” I’m looking for information on the 2012 convention or the 2011 parade– I’ve stopped caring about last year’s events (though it should be noted that a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade search still brings up the 2010 parade– step up your game, Google! It’s almost turkey time!)
It means that fresher is better…for certain things.
Before you get yourself worked up into a freshness frenzy, here’s what the algorithm update doesn’t change for the content industry:
If anything, the algorithm reflects our own industry: we regularly produce quality, topical content and the public consumes it. Google’s trying to step in to make our content more visible in a timelier fashion. That means plenty of good news for content publishers, marketers, or writers:
We’re important enough to induce an algorithm change, people! Let’s bust out the party hats and pop the champagne… and while we’re at it, let’s blog our party ideas and create an infographic to show how we’re celebrating. Surely Google would approve, eh?
Do you think Google’s new algorithm is a welcomed change or just another way for the engine to mess with our search results? Sound off on Google’s latest news in the comments!