SEO and algorithm changes in 2021

2021 Google Algorithm Updates – The BORN Thinking Review

How Have Google’s Algorithm Updates in 2021 Affected You?

It’s been a difficult year for many people and businesses, so it’s good to see that a number of Google’s algorithm updates benefitted our clients and their websites.

Here are details of the main updates which occurred in 2021and BORN Thinking’s take on each one in relation to SEO.

10 February 2021 – Passage Indexing

Google said, “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right, since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page.”

This update meant that specific passages in web content could be indexed and so provide the search spiders with a better understanding of individual sections of the content, rather than a wide view of the overall page. Google hoped that this update would mean the search engine would be able to find that “needle-in-a-haystack information” that users are looking for.

Google suggested the update would affect 7% of search queries.

BORN Thinking says: This algorithm update highlighted the importance of having quality content on your website. When creating pages, it is now more or less essential to use experienced SEO copywriters who understand your brand, your key messages, and best-practice SEO. This update has enabled us to target multiple search phrases on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis so that our clients’ websites are returned in the rankings for even the most niche search phrases.

8 April 2021 – Product Reviews Update

Google recognised that users want product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than a simple summary or opinion of a product. The product reviews update was designed to reward better reviews with better rankings.

Content creators were advised to ensure the reviews they feature do some, or hopefully all, of the following:

  • Express expert knowledge about the product category, if appropriate
  • Physically show what the product is like and/or how it is used, providing unique information which is different to the manufacturer’s content.
  • Provide quantitative measurements about the product and how it compares in various categories to similar products.
  • Explain what sets the product apart from competitor products
  • Include references to comparable products, and/ or explain the best products for different uses or circumstances.
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the product, based on personal research.
  • Describe the evolution of the product to show how it has been improved and/or how any negative issues have been addressed.
  • Identify the key decision-making factors for consumers and describe how the product addresses these key areas.
  • Describe the key factors in the product’s design and explain how these will affect the consumer – beyond the manufacturer’s claims.

BORN Thinking says: “Our use of structured data via the schema.org architecture allows us to present product reviews to the search engine spiders in a way that they can easily understand. This has driven an increase in conversions and sales for our customers.”

2 June 2021 – Core Update

Google’s core updates do not target specific sites or types of content but instead create changes to the overarching ranking algorithm.

Typically, the websites that were negatively affected by the core update roll-out in June 2021 were those with thin content or those focusing on sensitive topics relating to finance, law, education, health, purchase recommendations and reviews.

However, Google pointed out that some sites might see the negative impact reversed when the second part of the update was implemented in July.

BORN Thinking says: Our practice of reviewing site content on a month-by-month basis then rewriting and expanding any thin content into richer and more user-friendly pages has prevented any negative impact on our clients caused by these updates.

23 June 2021 – Spam Updates

Google took to Twitter to announce the release of a spam update to their systems. As part of their “regular work” to improve search results and protect the safety of users, the update was broken down into two parts which were completed a week apart. A video posted by Google highlighted the efforts made to protect users from dubious websites and phishing sites.

BORN Thinking says: When working with new clients to improve their websites, it’s important to ensure their content does not appear “spammy” to the search engine bots or it could be penalised. We thought on-page spam was something that most websites had consigned to history over a decade ago, but we still occasionally find dubious pages of thin content . BORN will then work to create rich, relevant, authoritative content that will help the site rank highly in search.

25 June – Page Experience Update

The page experience update made the following changes:

  • Gradual phasing out of AMP badge.
  • AMP also no longer required for the Google News app or on news.google.com.
  • Continued testing of the ‘page experience badge’, however, Google has not finalised the details yet.
  • The top news stories carousel feature on Google search was updated to include all news content, as long as it meets the Google News content policies and guidelines. AMP was no longer required to rank in certain categories irrespective of the page’s Core Web Vitals score or page experience status. This change began in mid-June and was due to be complete by the end of August.

It was also suspected that HTTPS, mobile-friendly, safe browsing and no intrusive interstitials would also be part of the mid-June rollout, as Google already used these as ranking signals prior to the page experience announcement.

BORN Thinking says: Throughout 2021 we have been emphasising the importance of the mobile-first approach to SEO. Page speed and page experience should now be a key part of every website’s SEO strategy.

1 July 2021 – Core Update

While there was no specific guidance for this particular core update, in the past Google has provided guidance about items to consider if your website has been negatively affected by a core update.

Previously, the only way to see any degree of recovery from a negative impact on rankings was to wait until the next core update, however, the downward rankings may not necessarily mean there is a problem with your site’s pages. Google advised that, if this was the case, you should see some degree of recovery between core updates, with a marked change once the next core update is in place.

BORN Thinking says: Our main defence against core update impact on rankings is to constantly monitor our clients’ rankings and investigate thoroughly for any reason why their site has been affected. We can then respond quickly to mitigate any negative downturn.

28 July 2021 – Link Spam Update

Google announced that their continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results had resulted in the link spam update. This algorithm update was rolled out across two weeks to combat link spamming. It was said to be more broadly effective at identifying and nullifying link spam across multiple languages. Sites carrying out link spam activity were warned they would see changes in Search as those links would be re-assessed by the algorithms.

BORN Thinking says: Our software has identified a number of negative SEO attacks on our clients’ websites over the years, usually by pointing thousands of low-quality links at their sites. Reviewing backlink profiles and disavowing any toxic links is essential for best practice SEO.

16 August 2021 – Page Title Rewrites

Google uses a mixture of various sources to generate page titles in the search results and this update introduced a new system that, Google says, will produce titles that work better to describe what the content it’s returning is about regardless of the search query.

Google has used more than just HTML text alone to create titles for more than a decade, but the new system enhances how HTML text is used and, specifically, uses the text that is visible to the user when they land on the page, including:

  • The main visual title, i.e. the text inside H1 tags
  • Content in <title> elements
  • Other header tags
  • Prominent and stylised text
  • Anchor text content
  • Text within links that point to the page
  • Other well-written, unique text on the page

BORN Thinking says: Google has been adjusting the way they display page titles for over ten years now and this has made search results easier to scan and understand for users looking for an answer to a particular search or query. At BORN, we always ensure that page titles and H1s succinctly describe the content on the page because we know that this make’s Google’s job easier when trying to understand the content and display a clear search return. Ultimately, this benefits our clients search ranking positions.

3 November 2021 – Spam Update

This update targeted spam search results i.e. those websites that use various black hat techniques, including hidden text, doorway pages, cloaking or sneaky redirects, to compromise the results and seek benefit over quality content. Such underhand tactics skew the search results and rankings, and corrupt the value of the search experience for everyone.

BORN Thinking says: In November we noticed a number of our clients’ sites benefitting from the removal of spammy websites from the search engine results for key search terms in their respective industries. Ultimately this should engender user trust and make sure that quality content wins out in the battle for top-spot rankings.

Onwards into 2022 with SEO at the heart of your website

One thing that the Google algorithm updates tell us is that unique, authoritative, well-written and informative content is what Google wants to serve up for users of their search engine.

Top-quality copy and content has been at the forefront of BORN Thinking’s offering for over a decade. Our content team and SEO specialists are on hand to ensure every piece of text on your website is written to maximise the chance of a high return in the Google search results.

Contact the team today, to see if we can help you improve your search ranking, drive traffic to your website and, ultimately, provide those all-important conversions for your business.

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