Google Search Changes: Bigger Index And Search Diversity

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May 8, 2012

Google continues to make changes to the way it searches the web. Every month, they release a search quality highlights post that explains the changes in more general terms. That’s better than the alternative. Previously, sourcers would just stumble upon a new feature that was rolled out and never announced. That being said, it isn’t always exactly clear how much of a change was made or how to utilize the new search function.

We’ll try to pick the updates that are most applicable to sourcers and, when possible, let you know how to best utilize the new changes.

First up, Google’s index is a lot bigger now.

Google’s index increases by 15%

Probably the biggest news is that Google increased the size of their index last month:

Increase base index size by 15%. [project codename “Indexing”] The base search index is our main index for serving search results and every query that comes into Google is matched against this index. This change increases the number of documents served by that index by 15%. *Note: We’re constantly tuning the size of our different indexes and changes may not always appear in these blog posts.

While Google may not mention every time they update the size of their index, they obviously figured it was a big enough deal to publish in their highlights this time. (a site which tries to independently extrapolate the size of the indexed web) shows that while the index did increase in size, it wasn’t much beyond the high index points over the last year. It should also be noted that both Bing and Yahoo have shown a significant increase in index size in recent weeks but still fall well short of reported index highs over the last year as well.

Assuming we take Google at its word and they have increased their index that significantly, that’s good news for sourcers. Unfortunately, we also know that those results from outlier sources are sometimes awfully hard to find. And if they weren’t in the base index to begin with, I have to wonder exactly how often it could impact search results?

Domain diversity in results

When you aren’t searching a specific site, you might have an issue with the same site popping up in your search results over and over again. Without suppressing the specific site, you’ll be wading through them to find what you’re looking for. Google hopes to alleviate that:

More domain diversity. [launch codename “Horde”, project codename “Domain Crowding”] Sometimes search returns too many results from the same domain. This change helps surface content from a more diverse set of domains.

This seems to be good news for sourcers but we’ll see how it plays out. Certainly though, it is easier to focus in on a particular site once you’ve found it than to try to ignore a dozen or sites that might pop up over and over again that you’d like to suppress a bit more.

A couple of other updates of interest

Since Google updated 52 items this time around, not all of them are applicable to sourcers but a few could tint your search results slightly, too:

  • Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking. [launch codename “Bi02sw41”] One of the most fundamental signals used in search is whether and how your search terms appear on the pages you’re searching. This change improves the way those terms are scored.
  • Improvement in a freshness signal. [launch codename “citron”, project codename “Freshness”] This change is a minor improvement to one of the freshness signals which helps to better identify fresh documents.
  • Better query interpretation. This launch helps us better interpret the likely intention of your search query as suggested by your last few searches.

As always, if search is part of your primary sourcing strategy, I recommend you take a look at the full rundown of the list of changes Google makes every month and follow the Inside Search blog.

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