December's list of Google search quality highlights is out and there are quite a few that you may want and pay close attention to you. Google has even added some codenames to the individual changes - which certainly makes it easier to track (and recognize).
Website Magazine's February 2012 issue recently covered several of the changes in an article titled Inside the Black Box. One of the most important improvements made last month (which Google reiterated this announcement) are about related queries. Sometimes Google fetches results for queries that are related but have fewer words. Google has changed its algorithms (codename "Lyndsy") to make results more conservative and less likely to introduce results without query words.
The recently published list is lengthy (30 total items) but really only a handful are going to make any significant impact to search optimization professionals as many are related to auto-suggest, etc. Some of the most noteworthy improvements and modifications include:
- Codename "Simple": An improvement that analyzes various landing page signals within image search. Google also made improvements to image size signal (codename "matter") which will result in users seeing images with larger full-size versions.
- Codename "Concepts": More relevant sitelinks may mean Google will show sitelinks specific to a metropolitan region (which can be controlled with location settings within Webmaster Tools).
- Codename "Greencr": Country-restricted search has arrived. Now, on domains other than .com, users have the option to see results from one particular country.
- Codename "Foby": More accurate byline dates were announced, which improves how Google handles what data to associate with a document. The result shoul dbe more accurate dates annotating search results.
A whole host of other changes were also announced including live results for NFL and college football, better lyric results, improved Hebrew synonyms and more. Perhaps most noteworthy of all the announcements is that the much discussed encrypted search feature is expanding into the UK, Germany and France.