In Google’s never-ending quest to improve search quality, Google announced forty changes to their platform that rolled out in February 2012. The updates are designed to refresh their search engine for consistency, relevancy, and accuracy.

According to the official Google Search Blog, “We continue to improve many of our systems, including related searches, sitelinks, autocomplete, UI elements, indexing, synonyms, SafeSearch and more. Each individual change is subtle and important, and over time they add up to a radically improved search engine.”

While most of these changes deal with general search functionality including less duplication in expanded sitelinks, more locally relevant predictions in searches, and removal of outdated algorithms, many affect Google’s international audience. Other changes affect results on YouTube and Hulu and Google Places.

Two important changes that will affect SEO efforts: Google has changed the way they evaluate links to determine the topic of a linked page, and they have fixed some weaknesses in their spam protection. If your website using black hat techniques to reach the top of the SERPs, it may be time to implement a white hat plan.