On the 21st of October, the ‘Back to School’ webinar returned for an SEO special. The panel of SEO experts sat down to explore the latest Google updates that have happened across the SEO landscape since February 2021, as well as looking into rumoured upcoming updates.
The session was led by SEO Account Executives; James George and Aimee Metcalf, with an insight-packed Q&A to finish joined by Paige Hobart, Head of SEO and Alice Logan, Senior SEO Manager. Within the 45 minute update, they plunged into the main 2021 Google updates including the Google Link Spam update, the Google Product Review update, the Google Title Rewrite update, along with rumoured updates for SEOs to look out for to pre-empt these changes.
Catch up on the session here, and find the key findings summarized below:
“A Google Update, is the term used to describe a change affecting how rankings are calculated by the search engine, Google.” Any change that Google uses to retrieve data from a webpage and display or deliver relevant results.
Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times a year, with most going unannounced, sometimes Google is prone to announcing the larger updates.
General aim is to improve →
Awareness of such updates helps SEOs for a variety of reasons, including keeping in line with SEO best practices, improving your site’s rankings and understanding any reasons behind any site performance shifts.
If you are penalized by an update, you would notice a drop in organic rankings, whereas if you are rewarded by an update, you would notice a rise in organic rankings.
An important note is to never wait for Google to announce its updates, it is best to:
Google changes the way they use passages, snippets and sections of page copy to rank search results. Google is now able to identify different topics in long-form content to rank.
Once rolled out globally, it is estimated to impact 7% of all search queries.
This means that Google is now using the mobile version of a website for ranking and indexing purposes.
The goal of this is to provide an identical experience on mobile and desktop for the user.
Some of you may be thinking that this update happened already? Originally, it was due to roll out in September 2020, however, Google pushed this back. It is worth noting that Google has already moved over 70% of sites over to mobile indexing in 2020.
Google have said themselves that if your site purposefully serves less content on the mobile version of a page, you will likely have experienced a drop in organic traffic due to this update.
A selected search result above organic results, aiming to answer user queries immediately. These results feature relevant page content as well as the page URL.
Around February 18th, SEOs noticed a historic low of Featured Snippets which spanned over multiple industries. SEMRush conducted a study on this and found that by March, most results on mobile had experienced a full recovery, with desktop following shortly afterwards.
Google launched this update with the goal of ranking well-researched and insightful content over brief-product summaries. Google stated this was done as they aim to share the most useful and helpful information possible to users.
Sites that publish product reviews should be wary, and should check their organic traffic and rankings from April 8th. Any sudden spike or drop in search traffic occurring on or around that period, likely indicates the site was impacted by such an update.
MUM – ‘Multitask Unified Model’ is an ongoing update, so there are various developments being witnessed by many, with more to come.
MUM is Google’s natural language processing technology, helping Google to understand complex search queries.
As MUM isn’t fully rolled up, it is likely to see impact to SEO over the coming months through development of new tools and improvement to existing tools. Natural Language Processing (NLP), allows Google to understand complex queries. It may be beneficial to target long-tail keywords to optimize for this. It is important to use page schema to optimise for result types, as this will help google to understand what your content is about.
The difference between a broad update and a core update is that the core update is not targeted, it is more that Google is updating the algorithm to refresh how they want webpages to be designed; it is a way for them to review their assessment process.
These updates take place a few times a year, with the last core update taking place in December 2020.
The update occurred in two parts due to the large size of said update, the first being in June 2021 and the second being in July 2021.
It is hard to see whether you have been impacted or not. Firstly, to see if you have been affected, check Google Search Console for any increase in traffic or improvements in position. If affected, look at how to improve your position with these questions:
Google is now improving at spotting unnatural links. These unnatural and spammy links are now being reassessed by the algorithm in order to fight poor-quality content from ranking high in the SERP.
This update rolled out over two months, June and July. If you wanted to see if you had been impacted, look for any sudden spike or drop in organic traffic and rankings from this time period.
Interestingly with this link spam update, Google has put an emphasis on sites that handle links where an exchange of value is involved.
Core web vitals –
Mobile Friendly: A page must be compatible with mobile devices.
Safe browsing: Any security issues on a webpage will disqualify a ‘Good’ status.
HTTPs: A page must be served over a HTTPS protocol.
Ad experience: Page ads must not be interrupted or disturbing as this can interrupt UX.
Google provides various tools that are very useful in looking at your page experience.
Google is no longer simply using HTMl title tags to generate titles in SERPs. Instead, Google is now often replacing the text with a page’s H1 tag.
To enhance the relevancy for searchers. Google replaces a page’s title in the SERP when it believes it isn’t describing a page as well as it could in the title tag.
Look out for a fluctuating CTR from August 16th. If you have noticed a drop; or a rise, in your CTR from August 16th, check the title Google is serving in the SERP.
Google is reporting breaking news in real time. Big Moments relies on machine learning capabilities added to Google News in 2018. They aim to replace where users would normally go to find their news.
This is part of their plan for green initiatives. As part of this initiative, users can now find carbon emissions information for flights, can be shown sustainable appliances when shopping for energy intensive appliances, as well as information on the most fuel efficient routes being rolled out in 2022.
Two new features are going to be involved in this update:
Journey: Previous searches grouped into archives for users to re-visit.
Side Panel Search: SERP results remain visible while on a web page.
Stay ahead of the Google updates:
Ensure your site is always adhering to Google’s core guidelines, as there is no way to predict a Google update.