By Peter Ricci
Google may be one of the more valuable tech companies in the world, but it is hardly one to rest on its laurels. Every week, it seems, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is launching a new product or service for its legion of users, and that innovation always stems, first and foremost, from its search engine, and the many nuances and idiosyncrasies that dictate its search results. Within the last year, Google has made a number of alterations to how its search engine functions, and it would behoove any tech-savvy agent to be aware of their qualities.
Panda – Released on April 11, 2011, the Panda algorithm was a quality-control measure that drastically altered the search options for Internet users by placing high-quality, content-rich sites earlier in searches than low-quality sites dominated by links and advertisements. So instead of jumbled searches featuring all conceivable connections to the search term(s), Panda separated the diamonds from the coal and, in the process, placed considerably more pressure on content creators to churn out more refined, well-thought-out material.
Freshness Update – An upgrade from last November to a previously-released algorithm, the Freshness update emphasized trending topics and recent information in search results. Particularly useful for blogs, the algorithm can give even the most obscure website a boost in readers if that site happens to feature a trending topic on its pages.
Page Layout – Premiering on January 19 of this year, the Google Page Layout algorithm focuses on “above the fold” information, meaning content that is positioned on the top half of a website. If the Panda algorithm placed a premium on high-quality content, the Page Layout algorithm makes sure it is conveniently positioned on the page, e.g. above any advertisements and supercilious photographs.
Search Quality Highlights – Though Google revealed these updates – a series of 40 tweaks and improvements – on Feb. 27, only two really matter. The first, another improvement to Panda, works in collaboration with the Google+ social media platform, making the site’s index more accurate and sensitive to changes, as well as featuring Google+ profiles more prominently on Google search inquiries. The second, a Link Evaluation update, is an extension of the original Panda update, in that traditional SEO sites, with their emphasis on offsite links, are not as valued by the search engine and not as prominently featured.