There is a somewhat cryptic note about how Google Scholar is now ranking results over on the Official Google Blog. It says the search engine is now ranking results in a different way, noting that:
It’s not just a plain sort by date, but rather we try to rank recent papers the way researchers do, by looking at the prominence of the author’s and journal’s previous papers, how many citations it already has, when it was written, and so on.
This strikes me as a good thing but I wish they would share that ranking algorithm. I recognize that they are probably looking to patent it (ugh!), but there’s a tradition in the academic community about being a bit transparent about such things, so I hope that if not now, at least eventually they will share more details about how, exactly they are doing their ranking.