Fresh is best, says Google

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SEARCH engine giant Google has been tweaking its algorithms again and this time, it’s claimed the changes will affect more than a third of all searches.

The modification – hailed as “a significant improvement to our ranking algorithm” by Google Fellow Amit Singhall  –  are designed for queries about recent events and hot topics, “recurring events” and “frequent updates”.

The “Freshness Algorithm” builds on Google’s “Caffeine” initiative (completed last year), which was designed to provide results that were around 50 per cent more up to date than Google’s previous index.  Let’s not forget last February’s “Panda” initiative, which was a slap in the face to content farms and gave Google’s YouTube higher visibility.

What does this all mean in real terms? Over to Amit: “Given the incredibly fast pace at which information moves in today’s world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, and depending on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old.

“We completed our Caffeine web indexing system last year, which allows us to crawl and index the web for fresh content quickly on an enormous scale. Building upon the momentum from Caffeine, today we’re making a significant improvement to our ranking algorithm that impacts roughly 35 percent of searches and better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness.”

So what?

Why is this important? “If I search for [olympics], I probably want information about next summer’s upcoming Olympics, not the 1900 Summer Olympics (the only time my favorite sport, cricket, was played). Google Search uses a freshness algorithm, designed to give you the most up-to-date results, so even when I just type [olympics] without specifying 2012, I still find what I’m looking for”, explains Amit.

Now, just for a minute, look at that last paragraph and replace the sporting references with news about your business area. Does that change your perception somewhat? Can you see how engaging in regular online communication could have yet more positive impact on your Google ranking? Does this help you understand the power of a properly managed, regularly updated blog even more?

In Turquoise Tiger land, the announcement comes at just about the perfect time. Only days ago, we were providing business consultation to a fantastic company that wanted to make sure its social media efforts were on the button; one of their marketeers wanted to know why they should bother with all this consumer engagement, rather than just go for fast-return product offers. Of course, after a short explanation, he was more than happy to engage, and Google’s strides to tailor its search results more and more towards individual needs only serve to cement that message.

Future predictions

Social media and marketing methods are changing all the time; it’s a fast-paced world and nobody really knows what the future holds. That said, we like to keep our finger on the pulse at Turquoise Tiger, and we do have a few predictions of our own…

Although there’ll probably always be a place for traditional search engine optimisation, we reckon Social Search will have more and more impact over time. Let’s face it, when Google’s already put so much effort into honing its search results, right down to an individual’s online peers, it’s not likely to take any retrograde steps. So, although the jury’s still out on Google+ (and despite Google’s less than perfect tracking of Twitter), it seems likely that discussions on social media platforms will become increasingly important as far as web search results are concerned.

We all now understand there’s been a fundamental shift in the way people communicate; news finds US these days, rather than us having to search for it. Advances in technology have allowed people to report what’s going on around them in real-time, and live reports come from all kinds of people… as journalists and editors, Turquoise Tiger hates to admit it, but Joe Public is no longer reliant on reporters to bring them current affairs. What business people need to understand is that news doesn’t necessarily mean gossip from celebrity land… it can also mean news about your business, your product area, your customer base, your services, your events, etc, etc, etc. Geddit?

Let’s hand back over to Amit to explain what those three information brackets – recent events, recurring events and frequent updates – are all about:

  • Recent events or hot topics. For recent events or hot topics that begin trending on the web, you want to find the latest information immediately. Now when you search for current events like [occupy oakland protest], or for the latest news about the [nba lockout], you’ll see more high-quality pages that might only be minutes old.

  • Regularly recurring events. Some events take place on a regularly recurring basis, such as annual conferences like [ICALP] or an event like the [presidential election]. Without specifying with your keywords, it’s implied that you expect to see the most recent event, and not one from 50 years ago. There are also things that recur more frequently, so now when you’re searching for the latest [NFL scores], [dancing with the stars] results or [exxon earnings], you’ll see the latest information.
  • Frequent updates. There are also searches for information that changes often, but isn’t really a hot topic or a recurring event. For example, if you’re researching the [best slr cameras], or you’re in the market for a new car and want [subaru impreza reviews], you probably want the most up to date information.

Okay, now you understand, right? Especially those frequent updates!  Social media is, first and foremost, a platform for engaging with your audience and building some real rapport with your customers and potential customers, but a positive impact on your Google ranking makes for some very tasty icing on the cake!

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