For small business owners, it may often seem like a monumental challenge to keep up with the various changes to Google. Website owners who once felt they understood the system have watched their page rankings rise and fall constantly. For anyone who follows the articles on this site and others, it’s clear that Google is making some kind of update almost every week. It turns out that Google techs are far busier bees that many would have thought. A recent post from a Google’s head of search showed there were nearly 900 changes made last year.
The fact that Google made 890 changes last years comes from a Google+ post from Amit Singhal, the current Head of Search for Google (proving once again that if you don’t pay attention to Google+, you may miss important messages… from the makers of Google+). Singhal was using his Google+ post to highlight the major changes to the search giant over the ten years he worked for the company. [To make up for the Google+ joke, read this article with 10 stats that show why you should use Google+].
“We made more than 890 improvements to Google Search last year alone, and we’re cranking away at new features and the next generation of big bets all the time,” Singhal wrote in his post. “We’ve come a long way in 10 years — on Google and so many other general and specialized search apps, it’s now so much better than just the 10 blue links of years past.”
At 890 improvements, Google technicians were changing more than two things per day on average. This may seem like a lot of work, but you have to remember that Google has dozens of products that have to work with each other and on a plethora of devices. There will be a need to make a lot of small changes.
For the most part, SEO experts tend to focus on the large updates to Google’s search algorithms or changes to webmaster guidelines for penalties. This focus is due to the relevancy of SEO changes for web design and because these changes affect the greatest number of searches. Even then, it is rare for an announced Google update to affect more than 10 percent of searches. The hundreds of other changes that Singhal mentions undoubtedly affect far smaller portions of global search results.
It’s interesting to know that Google does so much improving every year to an already amazing search engine. However, the most important changes for marketers are the updates like Panda, and the fan-named Pigeon. These are the changes that will affect the traffic to business websites the most.
As Singhal reminisced about his time at Google and his top ten improvements over the decade, it’s clear where many of these changes and improvements are going. Here’s what he mentioned:
1. Autocomplete: We built a way for Google to predict the most likely useful words and phrases as you type, and even load search results instantly—so you can quickly get to that perfect recipe for “silky gingered zucchini soup” (even if you can’t remember the dish’s whole name). Typing out a whole phrase feels archaic.
2. Translations: Google Translate was barely a beta product ten years ago. Today people use it in 80 languages to do over a billion translations a day. Just tell Google to “translate 10 years into German” and see this magic in action.
3. Directions and traffic: Search used to be just about webpages, but our amazing Maps team made it possible to search the real world too. Now you can ask, “How far is it to Santa Cruz?” and with one tap you can open walking, biking, public transit, or driving directions—with the fastest route so you avoid traffic.
4. Universal search: Sometimes the best answer isn’t just text—if you’re asking about JFK’s “Moon Speech,” you probably want to watch John F. Kennedy deliver his famous speech. We’ve made that possible, blending different types of results so you get the most relevant info, no matter the format.
5. Mobile and new screens: No matter what device or platform you may be on, whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone (or even a watch!), you need information and answers. So we’ve adapted Search to all these new devices. This includes redesigning our mobile products to help those who weren’t born with the fastest typing thumbs!
6. Voice search: Gone are the days of typing queries as clunky keywords—you can now ask questions by voice in the Google Search app. Instead of typing [weather chicago], just say “Ok Google, will I need an umbrella tomorrow?” We’ve invested years of research into speech recognition and natural language understanding, and voice search works in 38 languages today.
7. Actions: With the Google Search app you can quickly text, email or call someone without digging and typing. Just say: “Ok Google, send an email to Jason: do you guys want to go to the beach with us for a picnic this Saturday?” You can even set sophisticated reminders like “Remind me to pick up coffee filters next time I’m at Target,” and Google will buzz your phone when you get to any Target.
8. The Knowledge Graph: The world is made of real things, not just text strings. So we built the Knowledge Graph to show how things are connected—ask “How tall do you have to be to ride the Cyclone?” or “Who’s in the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy?”, and then click to explore across the web.
9. Info just for you: If you’ve got a flight reservation saved in your Gmail, you can ask the Google Search app, “What gate does my flight leave from?” and get the answer directly. You can also ask about shipments (“Where’s my package?”) or for appointments (“When do I have yoga?”). All this is private of course, visible just to you.
10. Answers before you have to ask: If you have the Google Search app on your phone, you’ll get automatic help with everyday tasks. Google can automatically show you your plane, bus, and train reservations right when you need them; warnings when traffic is bad to your next appointment; reminders of bills coming due; a best guess at the last spot you parked; and much more.