Google Posts Massive Search Improvements Made in March Including Panda Algorithm Data Update and Freshness Improvements

After spending days on bulk Prank posts, Google posted its latest installment of search quality highlights reporting over 50 changes introduce in March. Per Inside Google Search blog post, the changes include:Autocomplete with math symbols [launch codename "Blackboard", project codename "Suggest"] - This change incorporates several characters that were previously normalized and should make it […]

After spending days on bulk Prank posts, Google posted its latest installment of search quality highlights reporting over 50 changes introduce in March. Per Inside Google Search blog post, the changes include:

  1. Autocomplete with math symbols [launch codename "Blackboard", project codename "Suggest"] - This change incorporates several characters that were previously normalized and should make it easier to search for popular equations. The characters include: : "+", "-", "*", "/", "^", "(", ")", and "=".
  2. Improvements to handling of symbols for indexing [launch codename "Deep Maroon"] "We've now started to index the following heavily used symbols: "%", "$", "\", ".", "@", "#", and "+". We'll continue to index more symbols as usage warrants.," Google said.
  3. Better scoring of news groupings [launch codename "avenger_2"] "slightly improves our scoring system, leading to better ranking of news clusters," Google added.
  4. Sitelinks data refresh [launch codename "Saralee-76"] Google recently updated the data through its offline process. These updates happen frequently (on the order of weeks).
  5. Improvements to autocomplete backends, coverage [launch codename "sovereign", project codename "Suggest"] "We've consolidated systems and reduced the number of backend calls required to prepare autocomplete predictions for your query. The result is more efficient CPU usage and more comprehensive predictions," Google informs.
  6. Better handling of password changes: This change ensures that changing your password more consistently signs your account out of Search, everywhere.
  7. Better indexing of profile pages [launch codename "Prof-2"] This change improves the comprehensiveness of public profile pages in our index from more than two-hundred social sites.
  8. UI refresh for News Universal [launch codename "Cosmos Newsy", project codename "Cosmos"] Google refreshed the design of News Universal results by providing more results from the top cluster, unifying the UI treatment of clusters of different sizes, adding a larger font for the top article, adding larger images (from licensed sources), and adding author information.
  9. Improvements to results for navigational queries [launch codename "IceMan5"] "A "navigational query" is a search where it looks like the user is looking to navigate to a particular website. While these searches may seem straightforward, there're still challenges to serving the best results. For example, what if the user doesn't actually know the right URL? What if the URL they're searching for seems to be a parked domain (with no content)? This change improves results for this kind of search," explains Google.
  10. High-quality sites algorithm data update and freshness improvements [launch codename "mm", project codename "Panda"] In the past month, "we've pushed updated data for "Panda," as we mentioned in a recent tweet. We've also made improvements to keep our database fresher overall," said Google.
  11. Live results for UEFA Champions League and KHL: Google added live-updating snippets in our search results for the KHL (Russian Hockey League) and UEFA Champions League, including scores and schedules.
  12. Tennis search feature [launch codename "DoubleFault"] Google introduced a new search feature to provide realtime tennis scores at the top of the search results page.
  13. More relevant image search results [launch codename "Lice"] change tunes signals Google use related to landing page quality for images. This makes it more likely that you'll find highly relevant images, even if those images are on pages that are lower quality.
  14. Fresher image predictions in all languages [launch codename "imagine2", project codename "Suggest"] Google recently rolled out a change to surface more relevant image search predictions in autocomplete in English. This improvement extends the update to all languages.
  15. SafeSearch algorithm tuning [launch codenames "Fiorentini", "SuperDyn"; project codename "SafeSearch"] Google rolled out a couple of changes to its SafeSearch algorithm. And, also updated classifier to make it smarter and more precise, and found new ways to make adult content less likely to appear when a user isn't looking for it
  16. Tweaks to handling of anchor text [launch codename "PC"] Google says they've turned off a classifier related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links). "Our experimental data suggested that other methods of anchor processing had greater success, so turning off this component made our scoring cleaner and more robust," informs Google.
  17. Simplification to Images Universal codebase [launch codename "Galactic Center"] Improvements made to simplify codebase for Images Universal and to better utilize improvements in our general web ranking to also provide better image results.
  18. Better application ranking and UI on mobile: Now, when you search for apps on your phone, you'll now see richer results with app icons, star ratings, prices, and download buttons arranged to fit well on smaller screens. You'll also see more relevant ranking of mobile applications based on your device platform, for example Android or iOS.
  19. Improvements to freshness in Video Universal [launch codename "graphite", project codename "Freshness"] Google improved the freshness of video results to better detect stale videos and return fresh content.
  20. Fewer undesired synonyms [project codename "Synonyms"] Google tweaked a classifier to prevent unhelpful synonyms from being introduced as content in the results set.
  21. Better handling of queries with both navigational and local intent [launch codename "ShieldsUp"]: This change improves the balance of results we show, and helps ensure you'll find highly relevant navigational results or local results towards the top of the page as appropriate for your query.
  22. Improvements to freshness [launch codename "Abacus", project codename "Freshness"] "We launched an improvement to freshness late last year that was very helpful, but it cost significant machine resources. At the time we decided to roll out the change only for news-related traffic. This month we rolled it out for all queries," Google said.
  23. Improvements to processing for detection of site quality [launch codename "Curlup"] Improvements made to a longstanding system to detect site quality now allows Google to get greater confidence in our classifications.
  24. Better interpretation and use of anchor text: Improved systems to interpret and use anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and website.
  25. Better local results and sources in Google News [launch codename "barefoot", project codename "news search"] Google notes, "We're deprecating a signal we had to help people find content from their local country, and we're building similar logic into other signals we use. The result is more locally relevant Google News results and higher quality sources."
  26. Deprecating signal related to ranking in a news cluster [launch codename "decaffeination", project codename "news search"] Google says they're deprecating a signal that's no longer improving relevance in Google News. The signal was originally developed to help people find higher quality articles on Google News. (Note: Despite the launch codename, this project has nothing to do with Caffeine, our update to indexing in 2010).
  27. Fewer "sibling" synonyms [launch codename "Gemini", project codename "Synonyms"] One of the main signals we look at to identify synonyms is context. For example, if the word "cat" often appears next to the term "pet" and "furry," and so does the word "kitten", our algorithms may guess that "cat" and "kitten" have similar meanings. The problem is that sometimes this method will introduce "synonyms" that actually are different entities in the same category. To continue the example, dogs are also "furry pets" -- so sometimes "dog" may be incorrectly introduced as a synonym for "cat". We've been working for some time to appropriately ferret out these "sibling" synonyms, and our latest system is more maintainable, updatable, debuggable, and extensible to other systems.
  28. Better synonym accuracy and performance [project codename "Synonyms"] Improvements are made to synonyms system by eliminating duplicate logic. Also, new ways are found to more accurately identify appropriate synonyms in cases where there are multiple synonym candidates with different contexts.
  29. Retrieval system tuning [launch codename "emonga", project codename "Optionalization"] Improved systems that identify terms in a query which're not necessarily required to retrieve relevant documents. This will make results more faithful to the original query.
  30. Less aggressive synonyms. [launch codename "zilong", project codename "Synonyms"] This change makes Google synonym system less aggressive in the way it incorporates results for other query terms, putting greater weight on the original user query.
  31. Update to systems relying on geographic data [launch codename "Maestro, Maitre"] This change updates some of the geographic data that Google is using.
  32. Improvements to name detection [launch codename "edge", project codename "NameDetector"] Improved a system for detecting names, particularly for celebrity names.
  33. Updates to personalization signals [project codename "PSearch"] This change updates signals used to personalize search results.
  34. Improvements to Image Search relevance [launch codename "sib"] Google updated signals to better promote reasonably sized images on high-quality landing pages.
  35. Remove deprecated signal from site relevance signals [launch codename "Freedom"] Google removed a deprecated product-focused signal from a site-understanding algorithm.
  36. More precise detection of old pages [launch codename "oldn23", project codename "Freshness"] This change improves detection of stale pages in our index by relying on more relevant signals. As a result, fewer stale pages are shown to users.
  37. Tweaks to language detection in autocomplete [launch codename "Dejavu", project codename "Suggest"] In general, autocomplete relies on the display language to determine what language predictions to show. For most languages, we also try to detect the user query language by analyzing the script, and this change extends that behavior to Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Japanese and Korean. The net effect is that when users forget to turn off their IMEs, they'll still get English predictions if they start typing English terms.
  38. Improvements in date detection for blog/forum pages [launch codename "fibyen", project codename "Dates"] This change improves the algorithm that determines dates for blog and forum pages.
  39. More predictions in autocomplete by live rewriting of query prefixes [launch codename "Lombart", project codename "Suggest"] Google says, they're rewriting partial queries on the fly to retrieve more potential matching predictions for the user query. "We use synonyms and other features to get the best overall match. Rewritten prefixes can include term re-orderings, term additions, term removals and more," Google informed.
  40. Expanded sitelinks on mobile provides better organization and presentation of sitelinks in search results.
  41. More accurate short answers [project codename "Porky Pig"] Updated the sources behind its short answers feature to rely on data from Freebase. This improves accuracy and makes it easier to fix bugs.
  42. Migration of video advanced search backends. Google migrated some backends used in video advanced search to our main search infrastructure.
  43. +1 button in search for more countries and domains. Google internationalized the +1 button on the search results page to additional languages and domains. The +1 button in search makes it easy to share recommendations with the world right from your search results.
  44. Local result UI refresh on tablet. Finally, Google updated the user interface of local results on tablets to make them more compact and easier to scan.