The new algorithm is a recognition that Google, whose dominance depends on providing the most useful results, is being increasingly challenged by services like Twitter and Facebook, which have trained people to expect constant updates with seconds-old news.
is also a reflection of how people use the web as a real-time news feed - that if, for example, you search for a baseball score, you probably
want to find the score of a game being played at the moment, not last
week, which is what Google often gave you.
“This is the result of
them saying we need to find a way to more effectively get fresh content
up,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land and an industry
expert. “It does help with the issue of people thinking, ‘Wow, if I need
to find out about something breaking, I’ll go to Facebook or Twitter
Timeliness has long mattered to Google and its search
results. Nevertheless, the company said that it always looks for
improvements, and the latest change goes much further in freshening
search results. Google tried once before to create real-time search, in
2009, when it introduced google.com/realtime,
a service that incorporated Twitter posts that Google paid Twitter to
use. But that contract expired in July and the two companies could not
agree on terms to renew it, so Google disabled the site.
still turn to Google for two-thirds of their Web searches, but for
people who want the latest chatter about events happening now, it
competes with Facebook, Twitter and Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, which includes more Twitter and Facebook posts than Google does in search results.
biggest source of the very freshest information is Twitter, and Google
doesn’t have anywhere near the access to that kind of data as it had
before,” Mr. Sullivan said. “But when people do those kinds of searches,
they’re looking for a lot of reactions, looking for Twitter itself. So
even with these changes, this doesn’t really solve that problem.”
became dominant by finding archived Web sites and showing links to
them. But today people sometimes expect years-old links, like the best
banana bread recipe; week-old links, like the last episode of “Gossip Girl”; or seconds-old links, like this morning’s presidential campaign news.
makes more than 500 changes to its algorithm a year, but most affect
only a small percentage of results. With its new formula, which Google
calls a freshness algorithm, Google tried to teach itself the difference
between those types of requests, Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who
works on search, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes.
on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a
result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a
week ago about breaking news is too old,” he wrote.
algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to
differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness
Google last announced a significant change to its search algorithm
in February, when it said it would raise the rankings of high-quality
sites to fight low-quality ones, often described as content farms, that
were flooding the search engine with mindless articles tied to popular
The new formula, which affects search results
globally but will not change nearby ads, will bring up minutes-old
results for recent events, like an unfolding news story, and for
recurring events like the Oscars or a political campaign. It will also
show fresher results for topics that are often updated, like reviews of a
new iPhone. It will understand that unlike breaking news, reviews from a few weeks ago are also useful, the company said.
are “queries we don’t think we’re doing perfectly well on,” said Rajan
Patel, a Google software engineer who worked on the new algorithm. “We
just realized that people expect Google to return the most up-to-date
results for all kinds of queries, from hot topics to more general
queries like a TV show.”
For evergreen results, like recipes or
how to change a tire, Google said the algorithm would know to show the
best results no matter when they were posted.
The algorithm uses
technology that Google built last year in response to the greater speed
at which people were publishing updates online. It is a Web indexing
system it calls Caffeine,
which crawls the Web more quickly, updating Google’s index of Web sites
continuously instead of every couple of weeks. Thursday’s revision
changes how Google ranks those links now that it has them in its index,
Mr. Patel said.
Google’s main competitor, Bing, has also developed
a way to index Web sites that change often, like blogs and news feeds,
and analyzes Twitter posts to identify popular topics, said Stefan
Weitz, senior director at Bing.
Mr. Patel said that Google planned
to incorporate posts from Google+, its new social network, into its
search results to further improve their freshness.