Google Launches Major Update that Will Impact 1 Out of 3 Searches


Google today announced a wide-reaching update to its search ranking algorithm that will impact about 35% of all search queries. This improved algorithm will put a stronger emphasis on how recently a page was posted or updated. As Google puts it, “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh.” Today’s update, says Google, will especially ensure that you will get more relevant results for searches related to recent events, regularly recurring events (think annual conference, elections, sports scores, information about TV dramas etc.) and when you search for topics where information is frequently updated (Google uses car and gadget reviews as examples here).

Bigger Than Panda

It’s worth noting that this update should be more noticeable for users than the so-called Panda updates Google rolled out earlier this year in order to combat the growing influence of low-quality pages from content-farms like Associated Content and Demand Media. The first of these updates, according to Google, only affected about 12% of all queries “to a noticeable amount” and a second, smaller update, changed about 6-9% of all queries.

Here is an example of what these fresher search results will look like when you search for a recent event:

It’s no secret that Google is obsessed with speed. While getting search results to users faster is one way of making search better, having more recent search results to begin with is obviously another way for Google to make its ten blue links more relevant. Google will have to ensure that its new algorithm doesn’t value freshness over relevance, though.

5:25 pm

Even Google is Tired of Needlessly Paginated Content


Google just announced that it will now do its best to lead searchers directly to the single-page version of the online content it indexes instead of the paginated versions of the same content. Whenever an obvious “view-all” version of the text is available, Google will now link to that instead of the long series of pages that many publishers would likely prefer Google to link to.

Paginating content helps publishers to serve more ads to their readers, but they are without doubt a major annoyance for most web surfers. According to Google, however, its users testing has shown “that searchers much prefer the view-all, single-page version of content over a component page containing only a portion of the same information with arbitrary page breaks (which cause the user to click “next” and load another URL).”Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 10.54

While Google is also making it easier for publishers to indicate how the multiple parts of a paginated story belong together and will surface these if publishers so prefer, the company notes that users “generally prefer the view-all option in search results.” The exception, though, are extremely large view-all pages that take a long time to load and hence result in increased latency.

Google, which has always put a premium on speed, notes that webmasters can take some easy steps to avoid having their view-all pages appear in its index (just don’t use a rel=”canonical” link to point to the view-all page and use the new rel=”next” and rel=”prev” attributes to link to individual pages in a series).

I can’t imagine that most publishers are very happy with this move. On the other hand, this will hopefully put an end to the unnecessary pagination that has become a major annoyance on many sites today. While it may artificially pump up pageviews, it clearly doesn’t lead to higher satisfaction among readers.

Enhanced by Zemanta

5:36 am

Google’s +1 Buttons for Websites Have Arrived – But Will You Use Them?


Google today launched it’s +1 button for third-party sites. Until now, these buttons were only available on Google’s own search results page, but now, website owners will be able to integrate +1 into their own sites as well. Among today’s launch partners are major tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, as well as Best Buy, The Washington Post, Reuters and Bloomberg. The question, though, is if users will actually want to press these buttons.

+1 Button = Delayed Gratification

In its current form, the +1 button is likely the least interesting button to press. The recommendations you make through +1 will only appear on Google’s search results pages (and your Google profile – but the reality is that nobody ever looks at those). There is no immediate gratification from using the button. Your recommendation won’t appear on your Facebook wall or in your Twitter feed. It may, at some point, appear on somebody’s search results page – but only if your friends end up using a query that would bring this site up anyway. Then, no doubt, this recommendation would be useful for your friends to decide to visit a site, but given that you can never know if that will ever happen, you’re probably better of ‘liking’ a story on Facebook than +1ing it.

Given that most users are likely just clicking one button per page they visit, chances are they will choose the one that’s most likely to get them an immediate reaction from their friends – and when it comes to that, the +1 simply doesn’t cut it against competitors like the Facebook and Twitter.

6:08 pm

Search Gets Personal


Starting today, Google will integrate Social Search deeper into its main search results and will highlight whenever your friends shared this link on Twitter or Buzz. Even more importantly, Google will use these signals from your friends to personalize your search results if appropriate. If your friend shared a story about Google’s new Social Search feature on Google Reader, for example, this link will climb up in Google’s search results.

Until now, Social Search was relegated to the bottom of the search results page and only showed items that your friends actually created. Now that it also takes links your friends shared on Twitter and Google Buzz – but not Facebook – into account, it has become exponentially more useful. My old colleague Mike Melanson describes how this feature works in more detail on ReadWriteWeb. Google plans to roll this feature out over the next few days.

Cutts kilimanjaro

Across the Web, Search Gets Personal

The big trend here goes beyond the integration of social signals into search results, however. Today’s update to how Google displays its search results is part of a wider trend towards the personalization of search results. Here are a few examples: Just a few days ago, Bing announced that it will personalize results based on location (something Google has been doing for a while) and the links you have clicked on before. Earlier this week, Google announced a Chrome extensions that allows you to selectively block sites you don’t want to see in your ten blue links. With its slashtags, upstart search engine Blekko is making custom search engines the backbone of its service. Bing highlights likes from your Facebook friends when a relevant link appears in the results. All of the search engines now take your location into account when deciding which links to present to you.

For better or worse, companies like Google continue to learn more and more about our personal habits and those of our friends. It makes sense then, that this knowledge will sooner or later lead to completely personalized search results that aren’t based so much on the collective wisdom of the Internet (Pagerank), but on a sophisticated understanding of which links will likely be most interesting to the individual user.

1:06 pm