From the Google Page Experience update and Google MUM to other unexpected Google core updates, 2021 was a year of profound change for digital marketers and businesses worldwide.
Throughout the Google algorithm updates 2021 cycle, businesses have either been slow to detect issues or quick to panic, causing a significant drop in several website rankings and traffic. Conversely, some have strategically calibrated their search engine optimization (SEO) tactics based on the latest Google updates 2021 series and regained their rankings.
So how did the Google algorithm updates 2021 rollouts affect your brand’s search performance?
Google is constantly updating its system, implementing thousands of algorithm updates every year. Most Google updates are minor and won’t significantly impact your SEO strategy. However, at least once a year, the tech company launches a minimum of one Google core update that triggers notable changes in how websites are ranked and displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In 2021, several Google core updates were rolled out to improve the quality, relevance and overall user experience of search results. Which of the digital marketing updates 2021 edition are still relevant in SEO 2022? And which of the latest SEO trends no longer matter?
In this blog post, we tackle the latest Google updates 2021 series and their impact on search rankings in 2022. Read on for the critical Google algorithm updates 2021 edition you need to know for your SEO 2022 strategies.
Google Updates 2021 in Review
Google’s algorithms are a combination of minor and core updates that change periodically to deliver the best and most accurate results to search queries. A Google core update is a noticeable algorithm change that significantly affects search results. Even if you have a dedicated technical SEO team working round the clock, a Google core update can affect your website for better or worse.
So what digital marketing updates 2021 series have had the most impact on websites across industries? Below is a rundown of the Google updates 2021 rollouts that redefined the SEO game during the past year.
“About This Result” Feature
February 1, 2021
One of the latest SEO trends introduced in 2021 was the “About This Result” feature. This was designed to help online users find more helpful information about the websites on SERPs without having to do another search.
With this new feature, most Google search results now have a menu icon (three dots located next to the search result) that users can tap to learn more about the website the information has been sourced from. Google pulls data from Wikipedia, such as when the site was first indexed and if you could expect a secure connection. If it’s not available, it collects information from one of its services.
Google has the “BETA” label on this feature, which means it’s still under user testing. Since its launch in February, no new updates have been released by Google regarding the feature.
Google Passage Ranking
February 10, 2021
Google passage ranking (originally called passage indexing) is a new ranking technology used by Google to better understand the context of key passages on a web page and display the most relevant content in response to a search query. With this Google updates 2021 entry, each passage is ranked independent of the rest of the page.
According to Google, passage ranking will affect 7 percent of search queries across all languages once fully implemented worldwide. This means Google passage ranking will continue to shape the SEO trends 2022 cycle.
Featured Snippet Drop (UNCONFIRMED)
February 19, 2021
A dramatic decrease in featured snippets of approximately 25 percent on desktop and 17 percent on mobile was seen in February, with no immediate signs of recovery. Among the top industries affected by the featured snippet losses were healthcare (-68 percent), finance (-60 percent), hobbies and leisure (-42 percent) and education (-39 percent).
While the impact of this update was significant, it primarily affected shorter, more competitive keywords and specific industry categories. According to Dr. Peter Meyers, a cognitive psychologist and marketing scientist at Moz, this is a common pattern with SERP features. When Google reaches a threshold, it lowers the volume of featured snippets to avoid downgrading the quality of search results.
Featured Snippet Recovery (UNCONFIRMED)
March 12, 2021
Roughly three weeks after the featured snippet losses in February, all query lengths went back to normal. While Google didn’t confirm or deny that this was a deliberate move on its end, John Mueller, Google’s senior webmaster trends analyst, explained that the volatility in featured snippets was a result of constant fine-tuning on features across geographies or languages. And although this was not a Google core update, optimizing for the featured snippets is still a key component of digital marketing success in 2022.
Mobile-First Indexing Update
Google’s mobile-first indexing initiative, introduced in 2016, highlights the shift to using the mobile version of web pages for ranking and indexing purposes. In March 2020, Google announced its plan to move all websites over to mobile-first indexing officially. This means that sites that are not mobile-friendly can expect a significant drop in organic traffic moving forward. However, the deadline was pushed back to March 2021 because of the pandemic.
With the 100 percent mobile-first indexing rollout, businesses are expected to prioritize their website’s mobile-friendliness. This ensures Googlebot can access your content, especially since mobile-friendliness is also factored into the Google page experience update.
Google Product Reviews Update
April 8, 2021
The Google product reviews update was designed to reward in-depth product reviews over thinner reviews in search results. This is not a Google core update but an update in the ranking signal. Additionally, it applies to only English language reviews for now.
As per Google, good reviews are those that provide expert opinion, including data about the product performance, comparative analysis of the product with earlier models or competitors’ products or top considerations when purchasing.
Most sites affected by the update experienced heavy drops or surges. To quickly pivot and regain position, businesses will need to implement best practices for acquiring online product reviews and create high-quality schema data to help Google crawl reviews easily.
May 28, 2021
Google Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is a natural language model developed to answer modern user queries and remove the need to carry out multiple searches to gain helpful related insights.
Google leverages an AI-powered algorithm to understand the contextual information from different sources and present comprehensive answers to complex search queries. In addition, Google MUM can understand 75 different languages, including images.
To keep up with the SEO trends 2022 edition, continue optimizing your keyword strategy and publishing long-form, data-driven content that targets long-tail and question keywords.
June 2021 Google Core Update
June 2, 2021
The June 2021 core update was the first of the two-part core update for 2021. This Google core update was a global rollout focused on providing more relevant and authoritative content to online users.
Since its launch, the update has caused major ranking fluctuations affecting forums, thin-content websites and web pages that focus on YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) or content that offers advice on sensitive topics relating to health, finance, education and law. The stakes are high for YMYL content since inaccurate information could affect people’s lives and livelihood.
If you saw a decline in rankings after this core update, Google has provided advice to help you recover. The explainer recommends enforcing your content with three main qualities: Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Google Spam Update
June 23, 2021
To maintain the quality of its search results, Google launched four Google spam updates this year. The first Google spam update was released and completed on June 23. However, Google did not identify exactly what type of spam it targeted.
According to Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison, the Google spam update is a global update that covers web page and image results. This means it did not impact local SEO results.
Google Spam Update
June 28, 2021
A continuation of the earlier Google spam update was released on June 28. Both parts of the update focused on combating spam. This two-part Google spam update showed volatility in search rankings but not extreme volatility like the previous core updates.
Google Page Experience Update
June 25, 2021
Google Page Experience is a new ranking factor that incorporates Google Core Web Vitals update (largest contentful paint, first input delay, cumulative layout shift) into existing user experience signals (mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, absence of intrusive interstitials) to determine a web page’s search ranking.
Initially, the Google core web vitals update also factored in safe browsing as a ranking signal. However, Google dropped safe browsing from its ranking signals on August 3, highlighting that it is outside of a website owner’s control.
Despite the recent changes, the Google Core Web Vitals update isn’t going anywhere. As such, website owners and SEO professionals can expect Google to ramp up its importance for ranking in 2022.
July 2021 Google Core Update
July 1, 2021
The July 2021 core update is the second part of the Google core update rolled out in June. Similar to the June 2021 core update, the July 2021 core update caused significant ranking fluctuations on desktop and mobile. The level of rank volatility also varied across industries, primarily affecting niche industries, including online communities, internet and telecom, arts & entertainment and games.
July 2021 Link Spam Update
July 28, 2021
At the end of July 2021, Google rolled out another link spam update focused on “identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages.” This means any link Google considers spam will be ignored.
However, although Google has suggested ignoring spammy links, there is still a possibility of receiving a manual Google penalty. To avoid potential link penalties in 2022 and moving forward, be sure to follow Google’s best practices on links.
Page Title Rewrites
August 16, 2021
In mid-August, Google introduced a new method of generating title tags to deliver titles that match any query.
“In particular, we are making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page,” Sullivan said. While the rewritten title tags do not factor into search rankings, they can still cause click-through rate (CTR) fluctuations. To prevent Google from altering your title tags, it is best to keep your title tags short and avoid keyword stuffing and repetitive language. More importantly, ensure all your web pages have a title tag.
November 2021 Spam Update
November 3, 2021
The November 2021 Google spam update specifically targeted content spam or those that go against Google webmaster guidelines. According to Sullivan, this update is simply an adjustment to how Google assesses the quality of content overall. Reports have shown major ranking fluctuations here and there since the update.
November Broad Core Update
November 17, 2021
As it does several times per year, Google launched another Google core update a week before Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The timing took the SEO community by surprise since it’s atypical for the search giant to roll out core updates towards the end of the year.
Overall, the November core update led to higher rankings volatility than its July counterpart, driving 12 percent more volatility in desktop SERPs and 23 percent more volatility in mobile SERPs.
November 2021 Local Search Update
November 30, 2021
Google ran a local search ranking update between November 30 and December 8 focused on rebalancing various factors it considers in generating local search results. SEO experts dubbed it as the “vicinity update” as it seems to put a heavier weight on proximity, devaluing the impact of keywords in the brand name.
Since the local search update, businesses with keyword-rich names that previously dominated the local market have seen a huge decline in ranking. Local brands should stick to the general guidance for local search optimization to prepare for any Google local algorithm updates in 2022.
December 2021 Product Reviews Updates
December 1, 2021
Following the initial update in April, Google rolled out another Google product reviews update which took three weeks to complete. The update impacted English-language pages globally and caused fluctuations and volatility in search rankings.
If this update has negatively impacted your website, Google provided two new best practices to help you recover: 1) provide more multimedia (visuals, audio, links) around your product reviews and 2) include links to multiple sellers.
With Google focusing more on the quality of reviews presented to online users, the Google product reviews update will definitely still be a big part of the SEO trends 2022 cycle.
Top Stories Redesign
December 6, 2021
Two years after its last redesign, Google rolled out a new Top stories design on desktop to match the mobile Top stories section. The new design shows a grid-based organization structure where more important topics get larger cards, headlines and images.
Google said the goal was to make it easier for users to understand what’s most relevant when multiple stories related to their search appear. Top stories drive more search traffic to the website. This means publishers with stories featured in the Top stories should look at their traffic and see if it has impacted their search performance.
What To Look Out for in SEO Trends 2022
Google uses a broad range of factors – some confirmed and many unconfirmed – to rank web pages and determine which ones are the most useful for each search query. And although thousands of algorithm updates are released every year, only a few of them will have a significant impact on your SEO.
Which of the Google algorithm updates 2021 series still matter in 2022? Take note of the most important changes in the Google updates 2021 cycle to keep your competitive search position and optimize your SEO 2022 strategy early on:
• Google Passage Ranking
• Mobile-First Indexing Update
• Google Product Reviews Update
• Google MUM
• Google’s Summer 2021 Core Updates
• Google Spam Update
• Google Page Experience Update
• November 2021 Local Search Update
Stay on Top of Emerging SEO Trends and Boost Your Search Rankings
As user behavior evolves, you can expect Google to continuously roll out algorithm updates to cater to user demands. We’ve seen how Google shifted its focus to usability, mobile experience, content quality and user experience in the past. The start of the new year is a great time to re-evaluate and revamp your current SEO strategy to adapt to these changes.
“Google will continue to update its algorithm to provide the best results for the users,” said Ronnel Viloria, Thrive’s demand generation senior lead SEO strategist. “We never know when, so businesses should invest more time in providing high-quality content and making sure their website loads fast. This will not only help Google consider your page but also ensures users find your content relevant to what they’re looking for.”
Stay up to date with Google updates 2022 cycle and gear up for a successful SEO strategy!
Thrive Internet Marketing Agency boasts a team of Google-certified SEO professionals committed to helping businesses keep current with the latest digital marketing updates and SEO trends. Schedule a consultation with our SEO company, and let’s get your SEO 2022 campaigns started.