Google SEO: Algorithm Changes - February 2012

Google announced several (40, in fact) search algorithm changes it made in the month of February 2012.


The changes (which, as mentioned in previous announcements, now come with codenames for easier reference) address a variety of user experience and functionality features including on related searches, sitelinks and a lot more.


Perhaps most noteworthy is that this update refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to happenings on the Web. Google also (in my opinion in a very vague way, unfortunately) indicated that it also modified how it evaluates links, turning off one dated method for evaluation and restructuring it to keep its system "maintainable, clean and understandable."

Without further hesitation, here is a quick roundup of a few of the most interesting Google algorithm changes for February 2012:

- Related Searches (codename Fuzhou): New data has been added to aid in the generation of related searches. Expect greater coverage in the future (meaning that related queries will appear for more queries).

- Sitelink Modifications: Google adjusted signals for its sitelinks feature, tweaking a categorizer used to identify duplicate snippets (codename Snippy) and adjusted signals so that expanded sitelinks are based more on page content and less on the query itself (codename thanksgiving).

- Locally relevant predictions in YouTube (codename Suggest): Google has improved its rankings predictions in Youtube to provide more locally relevant queries. An example of this would be users in two countries searching for the same generic term (lady gaga). A user in the U.S. will see results akin to "Lady Gaga in Times Square" whereas a user in India would see "Lady Gaga in Delhi".

- Official Page Detection Accuracy (codename WRE): Adjustments were made to how Google detects official pages, which will lead to fewer pages incorrectly identified as official.

- Image Index Expanded (codename Images Universal): Google has expanded the size of its images index which means more relevant images on a larger set of queries. Visual assets are playing an increasingly important role in SEO, so ready those pictures!

- Site Query Update (codename Semicolon): In what will be much discussed over the coming days, Google adjust its Site: query operator to increase the diversity of results. Google provided no indication of what sources would be used for the query but it should be relatively easy to ascertain after a few queries.

- Data Refresh for Related Searches (codename Chicago): This update refreshes the approach Google takes to generate the related searches section when queries are performed in succession by the user. So when you search for banana and apple in succession, you must be looking for information on fruit (and not Apple the company).

Also worthy of note in this round of changes is the international launch of shopping rich snippets, improved snippets for video channels, and improvements related to freshness of the index which now feature greater consolidation of signals for spiking topics.