Google LogoGoogle is often tight-lipped about its ranking signals. It makes sense, as they don’t want you to be able to game the results and get your content to rank when it shouldn’t. That’s why it is still somewhat surprising that Google decided to start putting out these monthly lists of algorithm changes, such as the one for April they released late on Friday.

While Google does provide us with all these changes it makes (not ALL of the changes it makes, surely – it makes over 500 a year), Google also tends to send mixed signals, telling users not to focus on the SEO trends. Trends must start when signals are discovered, so it seems odd for Google to release these lists, but the company has indicated it is an effort to be more transparent, without giving away the secret sauce in its entirety.

But if you look at a signal like this one, they’re clearly not giving much away, even though they’re telling you changes have been made with regards to this particular signal:

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.

So, from this, we know that Google has changed how it scores key phrases. They don’t say whether they have a greater or smaller impact on how content ranks, though I’d be inclined to speculate that it’s smaller.

Google is always talking about how it is getting better at understanding content, so it seems unlikely that the algorithm would have to rely on search terms more for ranking. As Google says, this is one of the most fundamental signals used in search. It’s always been an obvious signal. It seems like it would be a step backwards if search terms appearing on a page had a greater impact. That would go against that whole SEO mattering less message Google has been sending lately (particularly with the Penguin update). It doesn’t get anymore SEO than keywords.

In the last paragraph of Google’s announcement of the Penguin update, Matt Cutts wrote, “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”

[Continue at WebProNews]

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