Google’s mission is to “organize information from all over the world and make it accessible and useful globally”, and to achieve this ambitious goal it is necessary a continuous and constant work to improve the search system: and so, if a few years ago 3200 interventions were needed to improve the engine, the continuous evolution of the Web and the needs of users have led to a further increase in this work, culminating in over 4500 changes made in 2020.

Google’s improvement work in 2020

The news comes directly from Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Search, who wrote an article on The Keyword blog to present the results of this Google Search update work, oriented to respond to the evolving needs and expectations of people using Google.

To be precise, in 2020 alone Google performed:

  • 887 launches in search results.
  • 323 real-time traffic experiments.
  • 605 tests on search quality
  • 937 experiments side by side

How Google enhancements work and what they do

The nearly 5,000 launches – 40 percent more than in 2018 and ten times more than in 2010, when Google declared a rate of about one change per day – concern ranking interventions (such as broad core updates), user interface changes and much more. The numbers show that the company has accelerated efforts on this front over the years and is increasing the speed with which it updates Google Search.

Le modifiche a Google Search

Before being actually published and shown to users, every single change proposed for the Search is subjected to a strict evaluation procedure, which serves to carefully analyze data and metrics from various experiments to determine whether it really improves the service for people (otherwise it is not launched). And so, in the face of more than 600 thousand experiments, only (so to speak) 4887 have actually resulted in improvements to the Research.

Real-time traffic experiments are used to test how real people interact with a certain feature before launching it for everyone. Google looks at a long list of metrics – for example what people click on, how many searches have been completed and if some have been canceled, how long it took people to click on a result and so on – and use these results to assess whether user involvement with the new functionality can ensure that changes improve the relevance and usefulness of the results.

 

Esempi di test di Google

Search quality tests are carried out thanks to Google quality raters, external search quality assessors recruited to measure the quality of search results on an ongoing basis and to monitor the extent to which content meets a search request and meets the required quality requirements based on the level of specialization, the authority and reliability of content – Google’s famous EAT paradigm. The article recalls that these ratings do not directly affect the ranking (but help to define the quality standards of the results) and are based on public guidelines for Quality Raters providing the same instructions and examples of appropriate assessments.

The experiments side by side complete this improvement work and represent a kind of A/B test: Google presents to the evaluators two different groups of search results, one in which the proposed change is already implemented and the other without, and asks them what their favorite version is and why.

The new How Search Works site

Related to this data, Sullivan also announced the launch of the new completely redesigned version of the How Search Works website, which explains to users the details of the search.

Published online for the first time in 2016, this portal presents various practical information that describe to normal people some basic aspects of the operation of Google Search; compared to the previous version, today the site is updated with new information, has a simpler navigation also thanks to the addition of bookmarks to sections and presents links to additional resources that share the operation of the Search and answer to common questions.

The site presents details on how Google ranking systems organize hundreds of billions of web pages and other content in the search index, examining factors such as meaning, relevance, quality, usability and context, so to provide users with the most relevant content and useful results in a fraction of a second.

As Sullivan says, it represents “a window into what happens from the moment you start typing in the search bar to the moment you get the search results“, providing an overview of the technology and work needed to organize the information of the world, understand what the user is looking for and then put him in touch with the most relevant and useful information.

A constant and evolving commitment

Over the years, the Web and the world have changed; even Google Search has evolved and improved, through continuous work that has maintained the same approach, oriented to transparency and commitment to providing information universally accessible to all.

And yet, as Sullivan cannot help but highlight, Google also has a responsibility to protect the integrity of its results and keep the results as clean as possible from search spam: for this reason, while “sharing a lot of information about Search updates, we cannot share every detail,” otherwise “bad actors would have the information they need to evade the protections we have put in place against misleading and low-quality content”.

For everyone else – site owners and content makers, for example – this site still offers an interesting reference to know how the search engine is evolving, to which are added the other sources of information and communication used by Google to provide news and advice on changes that may impact on results and rankings.