Google’s August & September Updates: Panda, Knowledge Graph, Page Quality & SafeSearch

Google has announced details on the search algorithm and quality changes made over the past two months – August and September. In total, Google lists 65 changes over the past two months.

The previous announcement covered two months as well, and was for June and July.

This time the key changes include Panda updates, improved knowledge graph, page quality and ranking changes, snippet changes, freshness updates and SafeSearch changes. Here is the list of some of the changes categorized by topic:

Web Ranking & Indexing

  • LTS. [project "Other Ranking Components"] We improved our web ranking to determine what pages are relevant for queries containing locations.
  • #82279. [project "Other Ranking Components"] We changed to fewer results for some queries to show the most relevant results as quickly as possible.
  • #83709. [project "Other Ranking Components"] This change was a minor bug fix related to the way links are used in ranking.
  • #82546. [project "Indexing"] We made back-end improvements to video indexing to improve the efficiency of our systems.
  • #84010. [project "Page Quality"] We refreshed data for the “Panda” high-quality sites algorithm.
  • #83777. [project "Synonyms"] This change made improvements to rely on fewer “low-confidence” synonyms when the user’s original query has good results.
  • #84586. [project "Other Ranking Components"] This change improved how we rank documents for queries with location terms.

Page Quality & Scoring

  • #82862. [project "Page Quality"] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • #83135. [project "Query Understanding"] This change updated term-proximity scoring.
  • Imadex. [project "Freshness"] This change updated handling of stale content and applies a more granular function based on document age.
  • #83689. [project "Page Quality"] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • #84394. [project "Page Quality"] This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • #83761. [project "Freshness"] This change helped you find the latest content from a given site when two or more documents from the same domain are relevant for a given search query.

Sitelinks & Snippets & UI

  • #83105. [project "Snippets"] We refreshed data used to generate sitelinks.
  • #83442. [project "Snippets"] This change improved a signal we use to determine how relevant a possible result title actually is for the page.
  • #83443. [project "Knowledge Graph"] We added a lists and collections component to the Knowledge Graph.
  • #83012. [project "Knowledge Graph] The Knowledge Graph displays factual information and refinements related to many types of searches. This launch extended the Knowledge Graph to English-speaking locales beyond the U.S.
  • #83304. [project "Knowledge Graph"] This change updated signals that determine when to show summaries of topics in the right-hand panel.
  • Knowledge Graph Carousel. [project "Knowledge Graph"] This change expanded the Knowledge Graph carousel feature globally in English.
  • #82407. [project "Other Search Features"] For pages that we do not crawl because of robots.txt, we are usually unable to generate a snippet for users to preview what’s on the page. This change added a replacement snippet that explains that there’s no description available because of robots.txt.
  • #83670. [project "Snippets"] We made improvements to surface fewer generic phrases like “comments on” and “logo” in search result titles.
  • #84652. [project "Snippets"] We currently generate titles for PDFs (and other non-html docs) when converting the documents to HTML. These auto-generated titles are usually good, but this change made them better by looking at other signals.
  • #84211. [project "Snippets"] This launch led to better snippet titles.

Image Search

  • Maru. [project "SafeSearch"] We updated SafeSearch to improve the handling of adult video content in videos mode for queries that are not looking for adult content.
  • Palace. [project "SafeSearch"] This change decreased the amount of adult content that will show up in Image Search mode when SafeSearch is set to strict.
  • #82872. [project "SafeSearch"] In “strict” SafeSearch mode we remove results if they are not very relevant. This change previously launched in English, and this change expanded it internationally.
  • Sea. [project "SafeSearch"] This change helped prevent adult content from appearing when SafeSearch is in “strict” mode.
  • Cobra. [project "SafeSearch"] We updated SafeSearch algorithms to better detect adult content.
  • #84460. [project "Snippets"] This change helped to better identify important phrases on a given webpage.

Postscript: On the Search Engine Roundtable I asked why weren’t the Panda algorithm updates and the EMD updates mentioned specifically in here. Google sent me a comment I wanted to add here to answer that:

Update: Google sent us a statement on why some items may be perceived as missing, in short, the blog post was written prior to these being released. Here is a statement:

These changes rolled out very recently, and their launch language was approved after the cutoff date where we were finalizing the blog post. We tweeted these changes and were also planning to include those launches in future updates.

Note that this blog post series is primarily a list of new algorithms that are launching rather than data refreshes of existing algorithms. For example, we would publish an entry when our synonym algorithm changes, but we wouldn’t necessarily post if we were just refreshing the data that our existing synonym algorithm uses. That’s a long way of saying that you will often see entries for when we update Panda or Penguin data, but in general we only intend to show entries when a new change went through the launch process for approval, and so you might not see every data refresh in our list. As we said last December, we’re going to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to sharing how our search engine works.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Knowledge Graph | Google: SEO | Google: Sitelinks | Google: Web Search | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Bryan

    Nothing in there really screams “minor EMD update”, eh? Yay, more head-scratching.

  • Bryan

    Nothing in there really screams “minor EMD update”, eh? Yay, more head-scratching.

  • http://twitter.com/johnelincoln John E Lincoln

    This is a boring update. haha

  • http://twitter.com/johnelincoln John E Lincoln

    This is a boring update. haha

  • Alan

    More spin and confusion. The day is coming real quick when it will be pointless reading any SEO blog. At the moment SEO blogs are doing a roaring trade we are all coming here to try and work out what is happening. However after a while it becomes pointless as we realize you guys have no answers. That is when traffic to SEO blogs will drop to all time low. The only advice that works is buy adwords ads we don’t need to come here to know that. What google wanted all along.

  • ScottyMack

    You are missing the other synonyms one that caught my eye – “#83901. [project “Synonyms”] This change improved the use of
    synonyms for search terms to more often return results that are relevant
    to the user’s intention.”

    There is more and more evidence showing that Google is ignoring the actual keyword phrase entered and substituting a phrase that they think might be more appropriate – even when it isn’t at all the same thing. You can see this when Google’s chosen synonym becomes the bolded word in search queries and websites with the Google-chosen (non) “synonym” are outranking high quality websites that are optimized for and about the actual search keywords.

    Still testing this to see if there is a pattern but it sure is odd and disturbing – especially in light of the fact that the “synonyms” one I highlighted seems to contradict the “synonyms” one that you referenced – #83777. [project “Synonyms”] This change made improvements to rely on fewer “low-confidence” synonyms when the user’s original query has good results.

  • ScottyMack

    You are missing the other synonyms one that caught my eye – “#83901. [project “Synonyms”] This change improved the use of
    synonyms for search terms to more often return results that are relevant
    to the user’s intention.”

    There is more and more evidence showing that Google is ignoring the actual keyword phrase entered and substituting a phrase that they think might be more appropriate – even when it isn’t at all the same thing. You can see this when Google’s chosen synonym becomes the bolded word in search queries and websites with the Google-chosen (non) “synonym” are outranking high quality websites that are optimized for and about the actual search keywords.

    Still testing this to see if there is a pattern but it sure is odd and disturbing – especially in light of the fact that the “synonyms” one I highlighted seems to contradict the “synonyms” one that you referenced – #83777. [project “Synonyms”] This change made improvements to rely on fewer “low-confidence” synonyms when the user’s original query has good results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shad.david.37 Shad David

    best comment ever

  • Jenksy

    Google has made me a grey hatter.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Alan, look over there to the right? See that Periodic Table? Those are key factors that have proven to work fine over time. There’s also an associated guide that goes with it.

    No one knows exactly what’s happening with Google or Bing exactly. But there are common best practices that have emerged over time, with the number one being what we call Cq – quality content.

    You pick your update, people with quality content come through it. And I certainly haven’t shifted in my nearly 17 years of writing about SEO in giving out that advice. This is hardly the first time Google’s down crackdowns and left some feeling lost. You probably should read these:

    http://marketingland.com/penguin-google-doesnt-owe-you-a-living-10968

    http://marketingland.com/the-return-of-the-google-dance-22206

    What is happening in particular this year is that Google is yet again cracking down on people who are chasing the algorithm rather than chasing humans with quality content that in turn can be helped by best practices SEO. The answer for that group is the same as in the past — are you producing the best quality site in your class?

    Usually, when I look into cases, that’s far from the case. I have no idea what your situation is, but leaving a comment that suggest that someone is going to paint a picture of exactly how you’re going to instantly rank well in Google suggests you’re not that well educated on SEO, that you’re looking for an easy fast solution.

    We don’t have any get rich quick scheme to sell you, if that’s what you want. Others certainly do. But those schemes seem to be why we’re getting so many new visitors to our site, refugees from having chased an entirely different type of SEO than what we advise. Our message is that it takes time and work.

  • Alan

    Danny when was the last time you actually had to rank a new site? If you had to start from scratch today without using your contacts and buddies or your name, you would fail, even with your “AWESOME content!” The reason I know this? because you are a reporter not and SEO. You haven’t been in the trenches for a long time.

    You see that periodic table to the right? that only works if Google is happy for users to leave their site through a free link! Increasingly that is harder to do. With the advent of Paid shopping listings and Knowledge Graph Google has started to make it so that users stay at Google or leave through advertised links. If you can’t understand this Danny then you don’t understand what your readership is going through.

    My complaint above if you bothered to understand it has nothing to do with Google making updates! That we can all agree is neccessary for Google to stay ahead. My complaint is that once again Google hide behind smokescreens when making these updates. I know Matt is your bossom buddy but when he tweets that there is an EMD update but neglects to mention the Panda update, obviously he is doing this for a reason. The reason is because it makes it harder for SEO’s to work out what is going on and as such harder for SEO’s to help their clients. Matt might be your friend Danny but he isn’t mine and there would be a high percentage of SEO’s who feel the way I do.

  • http://twitter.com/emmacoakes Emma Coakes

    As long as there are natural results someone will come top. SEOs have to learn and adapt, the skill is to know what matters and what doesn’t. It’s no different to any other profession except politics.

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