In January, Google launched its Search Plus your World initiative and the jury is still out whether this was a useful change to its search experience or not. At the same time, though, Google also quietly made a number of other changes to its search product that it didn't discuss publicly until today. Among these are an effort to provide users with fresher results, fast autocomplete, a small update to its content-farm busting Panda algorithm and a tweak to when news results are blended into regular search results. In addition, Google Instant now automatically turns itself off when you are on a slow machine.
Another interesting tweak is that images on high-quality landing pages will now rank higher in image search results. The quality of related searches, which often appear at the bottom of the search results page, has also been improved.
Here is a complete list of the tweaks and new features Google announced today: [list]
- 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 google.com.sa.
- 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.[/list]