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  • Marc Primo Warren

Your 2021 Roundup On Everything SEO

This is an article “Your 2021 Roundup On Everything SEO” by Marc Primo Warren

With Google's Page Experience Update leading many changes in 2021's SEO year, the still-raging health crisis may continue to change how digital marketers and companies work with the consumer. New search result page updates worried brands a bit in terms of visibility and page rank, but somehow, everyone seemed to have weathered the storm of SEO updates this year.

The updates were all the better for the consumer. With core updates, continuous scrolling, and title change upgrades in Google's algorithms, the platform ensures that user experience is still its top-of-mind goal. But where do these changes lead today's digital marketers?

Let's review the past year to see where things will lead to in SEO this 2022:

Google's continuing updates

With thousands of updates being launched annually, SEO practitioners are like boxing fans who have their eyes fixed on a fight and roll with the punches to keep an accurate score. The search platform has consistently ensured that pages with the highest relevance to search queries make it to the top, but this year undoubtedly expects more changes.

Google was able to reduce irrelevant sites on its search engine results pages (SERPs) by a significant 40% for the five years in which it continued to overhaul its algorithms. While most updates are minor, a few somehow sent ripples to the entire SEO global community.

Here are the top Google Updates in 2021's SEO:

Core Updates

Google launched three other significant updates last year, with the initial one in June wreaking havoc in search engines. The second update in July increased search volatility, but stabilized by mid-month.

What surprised most SEO practitioners was the November core update, which surpassed the earlier ones regarding search volatility. Marketers scrambled to get answers as the update came right before the busy Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping sprees.

Sites experienced upward and downward shifts in rankings during the Thanksgiving holiday, though marketers tracked no major rank changes. Still, Google's scheduling for the update prompted marketers everywhere to ask why the update rolled out in November.

Nonetheless, the platform's search index became more dynamic in handling site links and content because of the November update, rather than having fixed results for months. Most elite marketers noted that it did not cause any major disruptions as expected, but many were curious about the increased volatility in the Google Knowledge Graph Search API.

Page title changes

Another controversial update Google made in the past year, page title rewrites, surprised SEO practitioners with bold changes in how their brands appear on SERPs. Some of the changes diminished the quality of how the meta tags came out on SERPs, mainly the removal of pipe characters and the preference of anchor text over content excerpts. These changes prompted marketers to call for a rollback of the upgrade. Google did revert to some extent, but some sites still observed several changes in their traffic and rankings.

Initially, the update failed to describe the pages listed accurately, confusing some users. Fortunately, Google eventually improved its title overwrites by returning some of the links' original title tags and priorities on high-traffic keywords.

Spam updates

In late June, Google released a few spam updates with minimal impact on the SERPs. One of the updates centered on link spam, but another affected search volatility upon its release.

The search algorithm update encourages SEO marketers to perform best practices rather than spam tactics on Google users. Though Google did not point out spam on links or content, marketers needed to adjust their overall content management to prevent penalties.

The updates are a separate adjustment on decreasing spammy product reviews that came in April and December. Both algorithm changes gave more weight to in-depth research, specifically those sourced from social influencers or thought leaders.

In February, Google also launched an update that looks into excerpts of content within a page to determine SERP rankings. These passages serve as links to landing pages.

More 2021 SEO changes

In early 2021, Google featured an 'about' page result in SERPs. In July, they expanded the same feature to give users more of the information they need on a site. Somehow, users noticed similarities to Microsoft's Page Insights for its Bing search engine, which rolled out in November.

Bing also introduced a new interface complete with an interactive search panel and carousels while improving its search relevance algorithms. By October, Bing launched its IndexNow feature, partnering with Yandex to set automated parameters in indexing new content.

Back to the Google front, November updates were added to the platform that allowed more visibility to local news sources. The platform also initiated a free listings display on hotel searches that permits hospitality brands to use Google posts in their accounts to expand their potential reach. Along with this, the continuous scroll feature allowed users to see more of the bottom search results hands-free to encourage more clicks on bottom-listed sites.

COVID-19-related improvements

Meanwhile, as the Omicron variant continues to cause a spike in infections globally, Google foreshadowed a continuing interest for brands to boost their SEO strategies. Search interests increased primarily for local businesses and pandemic-related sites, thanks to Google's travel advisories displayed on its SERPs.

Late last year, the platform also extended assistance to users who needed information about nearby healthcare facilities and corresponding insurance details.

Other search engine platforms also contributed to both global health efforts and the economy with Yelp marking sites that required full vaccination proofs and had their staff fully vaccinated. Users can easily choose which locations to go to and which establishments enforce strict health protocols.

To help prevent the spread of Omicron, Yelp also added virtual restaurant attributes to sites that offer delivery-only or take away options to customers. The feature further boosted the food delivery industry, which was already up by 166% during the pandemic, compared to 2019 figures.

Yelp's additional information for users also lessened customer confusion, just as the government implements strict health measures, especially for dine-in restaurants. In turn, restaurants and food services can avoid low expectations from customers and improve their review and page rankings.

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