Google recently announced several new search quality highlights that were rolled out in January. Perhaps more than any other "theme" from this round of updates, however, freshness seems to be the focus.
Google has essentially made several adjustments/updates to the freshness algorithm it released back in November. While these are apparently minor updates according to the announcement, let this act as a catalyst to accelerate your daily content production as the search engine is now clearly focused on providing users not just relevant results but also recent, relevant results.
Users (and the SEOs who love them, of course) will also see a lot more in the way of news results blended in to their natural results. The improvement to universal search aims to assist Google’s decision process on which queries should show news results, making it more responsive to real-time trends.
Also worthy of note, I believe, is the introduction of more relevant related searches on the results pages. Often at the bottom of the results listings, users see a section called “Searches related to” with other, suggested queries. With this change, Google has updated the model for generating related searches, resulting in more useful query refinements.
Google had a busy month with the modifications it made related to titles in search results, its page layout algorithm improvement and, of course, the much discussed introduction of Search Plus Your World.