"Is there anything people can tell me about how Google has changed"
IMHO, Google hasnīt changed much because I see very encouraging signs on the serps and it seems that google still rewards the good old white hat SEO principles and use the followings factors for top ranking pages on serps:
- Keywords/ keyphrases in tiltle are highlighted (which underline its importance in ranking).
- Keywords/ keyphrases are highlighted in domain names, sub directories and page names.
- The acceptable level (or %) of Keywords/ keyphrases density in body content is still observed.
- As mentioned in another thread, ALT text is still counted (though it could be misused).
- As mentioned by JuniorOptimizer, anchor text in the links is still important.
- Effective internal pages linking (crosslinking) within a site still has effect.
- Inbound linking strategy is still important.
- Content (especially fresh/updated) is still a king.
- There is still a great risk of being panelized for duplicate content.
As you might have noticed, there is nothing new under the sun of Google :)
I hope this helps.