Google Discloses 10 Changes to Search Algorithm

Google revealed 10 algorithm changes it made to its search engine this fall as it seeks to be more transparent at a time when the Federal Trade Commission is looking into its search business.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nov. 14 peeled away another layer of the multifaceted onion that comprises its search engine by revealing 10 specific algorithm changes the company has made.

The company has traditionally closely guarded its search technology signals, or the 1,000-plus factors that help Google.com serve results at such a prodigious clip.

Yet Google is endeavoring to appear more transparent about its search technology in the face of the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust investigation into its core business. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) accused Google in a Congressional hearing in September of "cooking" its search results to favor its own products.

To wit, Google detailed 10 of the roughly 500 changes it makes each year. Specifically, Google added increased page content and decreased header and menu content for its search snippets, which are strings of text from search results to give users an idea of whether those results might be useful enough to warrant a click.

Google Search Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts, who detailed the changes in a corporate blog post, said Google is more likely to pick text from the actual page content in the future.

Google also extended rich snippets for applications, which help users searching for applications see details such as cost and reviews.

Google also improved the way it hunts for and finds "official" Web pages and changed how it handles result freshness for queries where a user has chosen a specific date range. Moreover, Cutts and his crew worked to provide better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors.

"We found that boilerplate links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant, so we are putting less emphasis on these," he said. "The result is more relevant titles that are specific to the page's content."

The company also killed a signal, retiring a factor in its Image Search related to images that contained references from multiple Web documents.

Some of the changes involved language. For queries in languages where limited Web content is available, Google is now translating English Web pages and displaying translated titles below English titles in search results. Clicking on the translated titles will take searchers to pages translated from English into the query language.

Google is doing this for Afrikaans, Malay, Slovak, Swahili, Hindi, Norwegian, Serbian, Catalan, Maltese, Macedonian, Albanian, Slovenian, Welsh and Icelandic. 

This article was originally published on 11-15-2011
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