Google’s new algorithm brings freshness

No doubt, search engines today need more “fresh” and “recent” in their results pages if they want to stay on top of things. Especially, if they intend to stay relevant in a fast paced social web where blogs and news feeds are constantly updating us at “real-time” speeds. In most searches performed, even if users don’t really specify, they are after search results that have a “shelf life” where being most recent makes all the difference. At the rate in which information moves today, the most recent information can be from last week, day or even minute – so freshness matters.

In Google’s latest announcement last week, “freshness” is the top priority of their new search algorithm which is said to change up to 35% of all searches done on the internet. Depending on the search terms, the new algorithm, needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is still recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news story is too old.

The update to the algorithm is an extension of the previous “Caffeine” update from last year where google introduced the Caffeine web indexing system which allowed them to crawl and index fresh content on the web more quickly and on a massive scale. This latest update is a sort of “under-the-hood” improvement that builds on the momentum of the previous update providing what many have long since been looking for – up-to-date relevant results for varying degrees of freshness.

A good example to illustrate this in action might be a search for “olympics”. Seeing as the Olympics is coming up next summer, I am probably interested in results for “Olympics 2012”, and not “Ancient Olympic Games” of 776 BC. With Google’s new freshness algorithm, which is designed to deliver the most up-to-date results, if I type just the word “olympics” without specifying 2012 I can still find what I’m looking for. Google is getting smarter and now knows that different types of searches imply different freshness needs, and weighs them accordingly. If you are searching for recent events, hot topics, or breaking news, Google displays search results towards the top of the page that are only minutes old. A search for the latest review of the iPhone 4S should bring the newer, fresher content first, followed by older results.

The algorithm is particularly at work in searches for:
Recent events or hot topics – the big ticket events or stories where you want to find the latest information immediately. ie sporting events or breaking news stories
Regularly recurring events – events that take place on a regular recurring basis such as conferences, presidential elections or sporting events.
updates – searches for information that changes often but isn’t really a hot topic or a recurring event. ie searches for new products like cameras or cars

It seems clear that Google understands that the most relevant search result often needs to bring the newest information. More than just being up-to-date, this algorithmic improvement is also designed to understand how to differentiate between searches and apply the level of freshness required. Different searches have different freshness needs. Google searches can now deliver more relevant and up-to-the-minute answers to their users.

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