Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) made 30 improvements to its search engine through December, including upgrades to Image Search, the +1 button and Google Instant search.
The +1 button, Google's tool for signaling to users that they approve of something they find on Google, will now only appear when a user hovers over a result or when the result has already been assigned the +1 designation.
Google tuned the Image Search landing page quality signals, a bid to boost image result relevancy. The company is providing better spam detection for Image Search.
Google improved its algorithm for selecting site links, or Web links within search results that help users navigate Websites. In this improvement, Google said it could show site links that are more specific by a searcher's metropolitan region.
Google augmented its Instant predictive search software for Japanese, explaining: "For languages that use non-Latin characters, many users use a special IME [Input Method Editor] to enter queries. This change works with browsers that are IME-aware to better handle Japanese queries in Google Instant."
This is important because Google counts on Instant to drive faster searches, which it believes leads to more searches.
The company again improved its rich snippets, which allow Web masters to tag their content to improve its relevancy in the search engine. This time around, Google altered its process for detecting sites that qualify for shopping, recipe and review rich snippets.
Better infrastructure for autocomplete improves how the autocomplete algorithm handles spelling corrections for query prefixes, or the beginning part of a search. Users who leverage autocomplete generally won't type more than the first few letters of a word before autocomplete kicks in.
There are also new, live results for NFL.com and ESPN's NCAA Football results, a move that displays the latest scores, schedules and standings for games and teams. Good news for music lovers: Google has enhanced search results for music lyrics.
There are plenty more changes, which users can learn more about in this blog post.
Google has traditionally closely held its search-engine changes. The company began detailing its search-engine changes in November, part of its plan to be more transparent about the approximately 500 algorithm tweaks it makes each year.
Google is disclosing the changes in the face of the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust investigation into its core business. The European Commission is also scrutinizing Google.