Google Codenames & Algorithm Updates

Google is always looking for the opportunity to upgrade search quality. Just about every month, Google makes one significant update to the search algorithm, but for every one major change there are many tens of minor changes. The amount of updates last year was reportedly over 600,

To help simplify the hundreds of changes that happen each year, Google typically assigns a catchy codename to each major algorithm change. Algorithm changes with codenames such as Panda and Freshness should stand out in your memory as some of the most recent. Codenames are also often assigned common names like Cassandra or Vince. Despite what Google names their updates, it is important as search engine professionals that we understand the nature of the changes included in the algorithm update.

In the month of December, Google made approximately 30 additional tweaks to affect search quality. Nothing as large or significant as Panda or Freshness, but the tweaks are all important to understand.

Geo-Specific Sitelinks (Codename: Megasitelinks)

Sitelinks refer to the list of bulleted links that display below a website’s primary listing on Google’s search results page. Webmasters have no control over the links that Google displays for your website, but the Megasitelinks change was made with hopes of making them more relevant. From now on, Google will present sitelinks based on the location you have specified in your Google settings. So for example, a search for “Yellowpages,” will display pages on Yellowpages site that only apply to your location:

As you can see, the sitelinks chosen by Google are relevant to my current location.

Image Search (Codename: Simple)

Image search also experienced its fair share of changes this month. While image quality is certainly an important factor in determining image rank, Google’s “Simple” change increased the importance of landing page factors in this decision. Just like traditional search, this means that links metrics will be an important consideration in where your images show in the results.

Image Search (Codename: Matter)

“Matter,” refers to an image algorithm change that places enhanced importance on image size as a ranking factor. From now on, images with higher resolutions will tend to show first.

Image Search (Codename: Leaf)

With any traditional search, Google runs its results through a series of spam detection processes to filter out low quality sites. This spam detection never applied to Image search, but the algorithm change, “Leaf,” has now made it so. Images are now subject to the same spam detection that web pages are.

Accuracy of Byline Dates (Codename: Foby)

Several changes were made to ensure the date attached to any document or web page in the search results is accurate. We’ve already seen reports of webmasters indicating the improvements in this feature. For example, if you update a blog post, the next time Google crawls your website, the results will display the date of reissue, as opposed to the original publication date.

Mobile Browsing (Codename: Old Possum)

The “Old Possum” update affects the speed of mobile browsing. Websites with a mobile website will often utilize a unique mobile domain (ex. Google has always displayed the primary domain (ex., as opposed to the mobile domain, forcing the user to have be redirected by the browser to the mobile site. “Old Possum” makes it so the mobile domain is now the URL listed in the search results.

Google is always changing and evolving the search world and it won’t be long until they have rolled out even larger and more interesting updates and changes.

Want to learn more? Get your “smart” on by reading Google’s original blog post about the 30 updates .