- Three core updates were released in 2021: June, July and November. A fourth was rumored, but not confirmed, in October.
- Featured snippets falling under the YMYL algorithm were removed unexpectedly in February and then restored in March
- April saw product reviews under scrutiny. Sales-centric language was penalized and marketing-centric language was punished in favor of review-centric websites.
- Numerous spam updates were issued throughout the year. However, these updates shouldn’t have any impact on websites that follow Google’s guidelines.
A successful SEO strategy is like dancing the tango with Google Updates. The Big G can sometimes be a unpredictable partner for copywriters. We should all be ready for major updates to the core algorithm that can have a significant impact on page rank and performance. Google has announced a few updates for 2021.
Experienced web-based professionals have speculated on further updates. They report these to help others stay on the right side. We’ll be discussing the Google updates in 2021 throughout this guide.
Complete List of 2021 Google Updates
Let’s take a look at all algorithm updates Google issued in 2021. Some of these updates are official and confirmed by Alphabet. This is evident in the core updates. Other updates were discovered by webmasters from influential brands and discussed online. These unconfirmed updates will be marked in red below.
1. Passage indexing (February)
Passage ranking is a better description of the October 2020 update to passage indexing. It is simple and noble in its purpose. It will select one sentence or paragraph from a lengthy-form article to help with a niche query and avoid irrelevance.
This update focuses on keywords and terminology throughout an entire article, rather than just subheadings and titles. Google estimates that the update will affect around 7 percent search queries at the time of writing. The passage indexing update currently only applies to copy written using US English. However, it will eventually be a global and translingual policy.
You may now be curious about the difference between a featured snippet and this. A snippet is selected based on all pages, looking for relevance to the query in all aspects. A passage indexing update can capture a small part of a larger discussion that otherwise would be lost to the middle-page or beyond. However, featured snippets are a great way to get the conversation started.
2. Featured Snippet Drop/Featured Snippet Recovery (February and March).
MozCast noticed in February that featured snippets had disappeared from many SERPs of Google. This was a drop of around 40%, the largest in six years. Particularly affected were those that dealt with financial or medical advice. This was one of the most affected keywords and terms.
- Mutual funds
- Risk management
The YMYL wide algorithm was a point of contention, as you will see. Google has not confirmed or denied this update, so we won’t know the truth. These snippets were back around a month later as if they hadn’t been gone.
It’s difficult to give webmasters advice on how to avoid future, unwarranted absences of featured snippets if there is no explanation. YMYL’s hard hit suggests that this was a deliberate move. Be cautious when working in this niche, especially if you rely on SERPs to find ecommerce opportunities.
3. April Product Review Update
Ecommerce sites that collect product insights and those that publish product reviews found April’s update to be critical. Google insists that this has and not been an update to the core. Content marketers should now adopt the same approach as core updates later in the year.
It’s important that product reviews are factual after the review update. This means that product reviews should not discuss the product’s quality without obvious attempts to sell an affiliate. Sites that used popular keywords to highlight the product’s qualities and directed consumers towards Amazon were often penalized.
Google was not impressed by thin copy. A page will slide down the rankings if it has meaningless and repetitive words. A product review website that wants to be in good standing with Google must keep in mind the basic rules of E-A–T. It can still try to sell products, but it cannot do so at the cost of trustworthiness, authority, and expertise.
4. Multitask Unified Model aka MUM (June)
Google had a busy June, with the Multitask Unified Model Update, also known as MUM. This update can be considered an extension to the recently discussed passage indexing update. MUM also used AI for better search experience, replacing BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Reprepresentations from Transformers).
MUM has been claimed to be at least 1,000 times as powerful as its predecessor. MUM provides users with more detailed, richer data. It also works to eliminate language barriers (misspellings included), and relies on nuance to fulfill search expectations.
MUM is a way to ensure that the pages you are displaying irrelevant content will be removed from the top. This can happen because of a questionable use keywords to cheat the SEO system. While the core update was the most talked about, don’t forget to mention MUM.
5. Spam updates (June).
The next update was a spam alert, which occurred over two weeks. This update should have no effect on websites that are following white-hat SEO rules. It was created to preserve content relevance and correctness, fighting against evil tactics.
This update was not perfect, but there was still room for error. It is a good idea to stay up-to-date with the Google webmaster guidelines. A site will be less likely to be accused of traffic-hoarding or misunderstanding.
This update could also include updates to Google’s Predator algorithm. Google has taken great measures to protect users from online harassment. This includes downgrading sites that appear to be there to denigrate their reputations.
6. Update to page experience (June).
The page experience update sounds grand, similar to a core upgrade. This was actually a very low-key affair. It was also a slow processsion that began in June and continued until August. There will still be some ebb-flow. Talk about the update with your UX designer to ensure that it is always in your mind.
This update reveals that AMP is not required to rank as a top-new story. This could be a significant difference for any reporting site. However, the usual caveats apply – it is essential to adhere to Google News’ policies. Although AMP is not essential, make sure your news articles are mobile-friendly, stored on a secure server and free from intrusive advertisements.
7. Core update (June & July)
This is the big news that will have every web administrator across the globe on tenterhooks: Google’s major summer core updates. Google announced in 2021 two updates to its core software, one for June and the other for July.
This update was full of winners and losers, as usual. YMYL websites lost a lot of traffic during the update, which was a common theme. This was especially true in June when the changes were most volatile. This update seemed to focus on thin content in all niches, and such sites were pruned with caution.
Some sites that had been heavily penalized in the past may have seen a slight bounce back. According to some reports, the July and June updates had as their top priorities domain age and backlinks use.
After the 2019 game-changing updates, review the traffic to any sites you have abandoned. These sites could have seen a rise in page rank and may be worth reinvestment. Google could consider this an oversight, and reverse the decision at any time.
8. Link spam update (July).
In July, another spam-detecting algorithm was introduced. This time it focused on backlinks. Google refers to this update as “nullifying” spam links and not penalizing them. This is what’s interesting.
Google will stop counting links that are not appropriate to a page’s ranking or quality score. It would be a severe punishment for a site that relied on these links in the past. This is an important Google update link-building professionals should pay attention to.
If you notice a decrease in traffic to your site, make sure that the links are up-to-date and comply with Google’s link scheme standards. This update could easily be snubbed due to outdated copy, which has not been updated for some time, and links to an incorrect or irrelevant online location.
9. Rewrite page title (August)
Here’s an interesting update for August. Google began to modify carefully chosen page titles to produce different ‘headlines’ in search results. SEO consultants around the globe may be gnashing their teeth as they see carefully curated messaging being adjusted to Google’s will.
You can rest assured that the page titles will not undergo complete rewrites. This is about minor adjustments to the title tags, and not complete rewrites. It could still be enough for a webmaster to feel frustrated by the result. No one wants to be accused click-baiting, especially if the news industry has a poor reputation among a skeptical population segment.
This is something that no one can prevent. You can retain some control by keeping your H1 headings concise and easily readable. Also, be aware of your H2 headings. These can be used to modify the title of a search results, either in whole or in part.
10. October Speculated core update
We have previously discussed how MozCast in February acknowledged strange patterns in featured snippets. This was something that Google has never acknowledged. Similar events occurred in October, when several webmasters noticed significant changes in traffic and performance. Google was allegedly involved in another core update.
These changes are still unconfirmed, much like February. We will discuss the November update as it was quite seismic. It is possible that Google will repeat the two-month-old update.
11. Spam Update (November)
A spam update was also issued in November 2021. This time, it targeted infractions against Google’s general content guidelines. Websites that do not violate basic SEO guidelines or take shortcuts should not be affected. Keep an eye on traffic and performance. You might need to refresh your content if you see any fluctuation.
12. Core update confirmed (November)
We had another update to our core algorithm in November. This was a relatively recent development at the time this article was written. The update’s impact will be more evident over time. However, acknowledgments and early responses have been made.
Mobile searches were 23 percent more volatile in the latest update, and this is what appears to have been the most important adjustment. Again, mobile searches were affected the most, just as they were earlier in the year. Performance has seen an increase in health and real estate in particular.
It’s important to note that Google felt the need to address this update’s timing. Danny Sullivan posted to Twitter that he accepted that Google’s update was not the best time for ecommerce sites, especially for those who have already updated their copy based upon previous updates.
It will be interesting for Google to change the way it approaches algorithm updates in 2022.
Our journey through the Google algorithm updates for 2021 is over. Keep in mind that Google algorithm updates are constantly changing. These adjustments will have minimal or no effect on your website’s performance. You should review the date and time when you notice a change in fortunes. The answer may be found above.
Joe Dawson is the Director of Creative.onl, a UK-based strategic growth agency. You can find him on Twitter @jdwn.
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Search Engine Watch’s first post, 2021 Google Updates Roundup: Everything Businesses Need to Win at Search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
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