Google Monthly Algorithm Updates: Dec 2011

In their recent blog post, Google has once again published a list of updates they’ve made to their ranking algorithm. But this time in addition to the list of updates, they’ve said that they’re going to make this a monthly feature. So every month Google should be publishing a list of some of the more notable algorithm changes they made in the previous month.

It’s worth stressing that these are not necessarily major or ground-shaking changes. Google says that it makes around 500 algorithm updates each year, which averages to more than 1 every day. Of all those changes, there are very few Pandas, so there’s no reason to expect major changes in rankings due to the results below.

Still, they should provide some changes, and the many of the items targeted in this set are things that are certainly picking away at problem areas, such as scraper sites.

Here is the full list of December 2011 Google algorithm updates:

  • Related query results refinements: Sometimes we fetch results for queries that are similar to the actual search you type. This change makes it less likely that these results will rank highly if the original query had a rare word that was dropped in the alternate query. For example, if you are searching for [rare red widgets], you might not be as interested in a page that only mentions “red widgets.”
  • More comprehensive indexing: This change makes more long-tail documents available in our index, so they are more likely to rank for relevant queries.
  • New “parked domain” classifier: This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites that are seldom useful and often filled with ads. They typically don’t have valuable content for our users, so in most cases we prefer not to show them.
  • More autocomplete predictions: With autocomplete, we try to strike a balance between coming up with flexible predictions and remaining true to your intentions. This change makes our prediction algorithm a little more flexible for certain queries, without losing your original intention.
  • Fresher and more complete blog search results: We made a change to our blog search index to get coverage that is both fresher and more comprehensive.
  • Original content: We added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original one.
  • Live results for Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League: This change displays the latest scores & schedules from these leagues along with quick access to game recaps and box scores.
  • Image result freshness: We made a change to how we determine image freshness for news queries. This will help us find the freshest images more often.
  • Layout on tablets: We made some minor color and layout changes to improve usability on tablet devices.
  • Top result selection code rewrite: This code handles extra processing on the top set of results. For example, it ensures that we don’t show too many results from one site (“host crowding”). We rewrote the code to make it easier to understand, simpler to maintain and more flexible for future extensions.

The two changes here that I’m most happy to see are the update that is supposed to make Google better at identifying original content, and at identifying parked domains. Both of these are real problem that get scraped content, or no-content sites ranking in the search results. It’s frustrating as a SEO practitioner, but it’s even worse as a searcher.

Trying to find information and landing on a 1-page site with nothing but a pile of ads just sucks, and having another site scrape your content and then outrank you for it is even worse. Let’s hope they keep picking away at these issues.

Comments 4

  • Finally, Google did something about sites that copy other writers’ work. I was fighting against some who stole my articles. Now I am relieved. I like the new changes. Last time, it totally killed Google.

  • THese changes sound great, however when looking at the updates today, it looks like worse. My sites which were a victim of stolen content are the ones that got slapped, not the other way around. I’m sick and tired of sellers on Ebay taking my sites content and posting with their item. For some reason Google thinks Ebay is the original source of the content which is more than further from the truth!

  • Thanks for the post. If you’ve lost rankings and traffic and suspect that the google panda is to blame.

  • I hope they further address the host crowing issue. It took me years to get my SEO to page-one-above-the-fold foe the search term, tide tables, only to have it now crowded down to page-three. That really stinks since it is a free site relying on adsense revenues. Go for it, Google!

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