2021 Google algorithm updates
When it comes to search engines, Google is the biggest one out there. Why? By popular opinion, Google search algorithms are what give you the best results when you perform a search. The algorithm is updated periodically and categorized by core algorithm updates and routine search algorithm updates. Google’s core algorithm updates are usually major events. Google will announce the upcoming changes within their blogs and social channels and name them (e.g., Google Panda update in 2011) for easy categorization.
As you can imagine, these changes can affect SEO ranking factors, site traffic, and results on SERP (search engine results page). A routine algorithm update, on the other hand, is typically minor and doesn’t have a noticeable impact.
How to recover from the updates
If you see some fluctuation in your search engine rank or in your clients’, that’s normal. However, if you see a 10%+ traffic loss overnight, immediately advise your client to revisit their SEO strategy and/or strategize with your team internally.
If you or your clients have been affected by an algorithm update, the best thing to do is backtrack, follow white hat SEO tactics, and STOP any shady marketing practices. We’ve published detailed information on white hat and black hat techniques to help you. It’s important to note that using black hat techniques will hurt your SEO, while white hat SEO improves your rank by implementing trusted, ethical methods to help your site’s indexability. These white hat strategies include focusing on E-A-T principles, implementing good UX design, using correct schema markup, and providing high-quality content written by experts.
Contact Data Driven Marketers for a deep dive into how the algorithm affected your clients and what to do next to regain traffic and brand equity.
February 10, 2021: Passage ranking algorithm update
The passage ranking Google algorithm update from February 10, 2021, affected English-language searches in the United States and was confirmed by Google. The update means Google can crawl an individual web page and the passages or paragraphs within it. According to Search Engine Land and Google, the change “can have a 7% impact on search queries” when rolled out globally.
The update allows for specific passages, paragraphs, or sentences to show up in featured snippets. For SEO marketers, this means answering more specific questions that users have by targeting long-tail keywords. Providing quality content and structuring content correctly will also help with rank and indexability. The changes should not affect an SEO-optimized site. According to SEO Roundtable, some SEO marketers believe they can see the changes in featured snippets; however, this isn’t true. They won’t look or behave any differently from before the update.
April 8, 2021: Product review algorithm update
The product review algorithm update favors in-depth reviews over reviews with thin content and little research. Google confirmed this algorithm update in an announcement that shared tips and questions to ask yourself when generating product reviews. To better optimize for your product reviews, be sure to include information that would help consumers make an informed purchase. Examples include
- Providing expert knowledge that goes beyond what manufacturers give
- Comparing previous product models
- Giving an overview of the product’s performance
- Including a buying guide and product specs
Overall, the product review algorithm update changed the way tone is interpreted. For example, content with a sales focus will not perform as well as content explaining the pros and cons of one product versus another.
For clients selling products, this is huge! By providing more in-depth content for your product reviews, you can improve your rank. Ecommerce sites need to prioritize buying guides. Consumers want a holistic view of the product and a comparison to their competitors.
June 2, 2021: Broad core algorithm update
In early June, Google announced a core algorithm update. According to Search Metrics, websites featuring thin content or “offering advice on sensitive topics relating to finance, law, purchase recommendations and reviews, education, and health” seemed to be the most negatively impacted by this rollout.
June 10, 2021: Known victims protection algorithm update
Google announced in a blog post that the known victims protection algorithm update would limit sites with “predatory practices” from exploiting others. In the post, Google explains that some sites require payment before they remove content. This will now be demoted in search.
June 15, 2021: Page experience algorithm update
This update focuses on prioritizing core web vitals and highlighting great user experiences. To see recommendations of how you can improve your site’s core web vitals and overall responsiveness, use Google Search Console to pull a report. Core web vitals aren’t a new concept, but now, they hold more weight than before when it comes to ranking factors. Some ways to improve your core web vitals include
- Implementing lazy loading
- Compressing and resizing images
- Improving server response time
June 23, 2021: Spam algorithm update
Google announced the spam algorithm update via Twitter but didn’t specifically explain what the spam update would target. In general, Google has been “fighting spam” since the early days of search and has “removed most of the hacked spam from search results” in 2020.
June 28, 2021: Spam algorithm update part 2
July 1 and July 12, 2021: Core algorithm update
Google announced this algorithm update at the beginning of the month on Twitter. On July 12, Google wrapped up the rollout of the “broad core update.” This update was smaller than the core update in June 2021. They didn’t provide additional details, but this isn’t uncommon. Sometimes Google doesn’t explain the updates; however, it’s important to remember how good SEO tactics and E-A-T play a role in improving your clients’ rank.
If you did notice a dip in traffic after these July updates, make sure your pages are following E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Hiring experts in your industry to write content for you is one great way to achieve E-A-T. Data Driven Marketers is also a great resource—we hire content specialists who are experts in their field and make sure to only follow white hat SEO guidelines.
July 26, 2021: Google link spam algorithm update
August 16, 2021: Page title algorithm update
Google has been known to alter page titles in the SERP based on what someone has searched. However, as of August 16, 2021, SEO marketers noticed their page titles were changing for the worse. Some even saw significant traffic loss.
Google’s changes mean that the title users see in the SERP may not reflect the title SEO marketers have optimized. Google says the changes “better represent the page as a whole.” Ultimately, this change isn’t entirely new; Google hasn’t always used the title tags for SERP titles. Even though Google might change what’s shown on the SERP, it’s still good to use semantic HTML and write quality headers that describe the page content.
November 3, 2021: Spam algorithm update
In November’s spam algorithm update, Google did not specify what kind of content would be most affected: link spam, content spam, or other forms of search spam. But according to noise on Twitter, link spam was hit hardest. Link spam is when you post links on your website, regardless of relevancy to your industry. Link spam can also be links with malicious intent, meaning once someone clicks on one of these links, the site will ask you for personal information. These links may also include phishing scams. With November 2021’s update, you’ll also see less value from building a large number of links if you bought them and they’re not relevant to your industry.
Industries that reported high negative impact:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Food & Drink
December 1, 2021: Product reviews update
Announced via Twitter, the December Google algorithm update for product reviews finished on December 21, 2021. Google took 20 days to fully roll the updates out, and it appears to be the last big update of the year. Based on data captured before Google completed the rollout, it seemed that the update was bigger than the April 8, 2021 algorithm update. According to the SEO community, the process of rolling out the new update showed high volatility across tracking tools.
What should you do if you were negatively impacted by this update? Google has two new recommendations for this update: provide more multimedia and provide links to multiple sellers in your product reviews. For example, try including audio, visuals, or links that support your expertise and authority with the product. Additionally, link to multiple sellers so the reader has a variety of merchants to choose from when they decide to make a purchase.
How Data Driven Marketers can help
Data Driven Marketers offers white label SEO services and data management services (i.e., Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console set up, monitoring, bug fixes, and reporting). Work with us to expand your marketing department, understand why your client’s site was affected, and recover from an update.