86 Google Search Changes; Four Key Trends

Google has released another (very) big list of search quality changes (86 in total) that took place in June and July of 2012. Instead of detailing each and every one of the changes (which can be cumbersome and, well, boring), let's try and decode the list and see what is in store for SEO's in the coming months (and probably years) by identifying a few (four actually) key trends.

A relevant side note; Google is no longer using individual code names, opting instead for project codenames which does provide some insights into the major shifts the Google search quality team is spearheading. That actually makes it much easier to understand the more substantial trends in the search marketing industry, so thanks Google!

Page Quality: Google has never been unclear on the role that page quality plays in results ranking, and the list of recently released changes for June and July certainly confirms that focus. There are numerous references to its "Page Quality" project which follow a theme SEO's are likely familiar with - high quality content, trusted sources, and unique content. If you were hit hard by Panda or Penguin and still haven't recovered, your site likely features low quality content (read Google Crushes Spinners and Spammers) or duplicate content. And if you have not dug into the data being provided by Google to about the quality of inbound links, you probably should make that a priority.

Site Clustering: There have been numerous reports over the past few months of an increase of results (on the same page) from a single domain. While I expect this mainly relates to brand specific search terms, "site clustering" is a term that can be found in the change list repeatedly and its impact can likely be seen elsewhere. Google indicated that is working on multiple projects to make its system for clustering web results "better and simpler," so expect more changes related to site clustering to emerge in the coming months - and keep a virtual eye on the SERPs.

Snippets: Sitelinks are another important element in the list of changes. Falling under the "Snippets" codename, SEO's should expect less boilerplate text in sitelinks titles, improved clustering and ranking of link in the expanded sitelinks feature, and more useful text in sitelinks.

Answers: Perhaps the most important, but definitely the least discussed since the announcement was made, are the search quality changes related to "Answers." 23 items on the list of 86 were related to the "Answers" project and relate to how Google shows query answers atop search results. In my discussions with other search marketers, many expect that this project is directly related to two very important changes to the way Google is planning to return results in the future - the Knowledge Graph and Google Shopping (that's speculation, but consider it speculation of an informed nature).

The full list of Google's search quality changes can be found here.