Search Engine Optimization

Google Algorithm Update 2021: 8 Major Changes

When you say internet, the first thing that will pop up in conversations will be Google. 

After all, it’s the platform that we commonly use to accomplish everyday tasks. From research, communication, streaming, gaming, and even work-related activities—in whatever we do—Google’s always somehow involved. 

On that note, the American multinational company makes it so that it is always evolving its algorithm, a move that ensures it’s always up-to-date with the needs and demands of its audience, specifically when it comes to providing the most accurate, relevant, and secure pages for its users. 

As a user, it’s also in your interest to know more about Google’s algorithm update history. This holds especially true if you’re a business or brand relying on Google for digital marketing in the Philippines—either for your social pages and online store.

Familiarizing yourself with these algorithmic changes will help you adapt easily, keep you in line with the best search engine optimization (SEO) practices, and help you understand the underlying cause of your page’s performance shifts.

And most important, it will allow you to stay relevant in search results—an outcome that will greatly benefit your page’s views, interaction, and sales.

To help you, we’ll be delving into the eight major changes that Google implemented on its search engine this year. 

  • Passage Ranking (Rollout: February 2021)

Through this update, Google is now able to index individual web page passages (e.g paragraphs and sentences)—as opposed to just web pages as a whole. This makes it possible for the search engine to take specific passages of a page and use them as feature snippets, allowing users to get answers for specific queries quicker.

To adhere to this ranking update, here’s what you have to do: 

  1. Provide a deeper and more accurate answer to a query.
  2. Make use of long-tail keywords.
  3. Structure your web content aptly to make Googlebot’s indexing easier.
  • About this Result (Rollout: February 2021)

With the implementation of the ‘About this Result’ update, Google can now provide a more in-depth look into a search result. It allows users to easily verify results for their queries, particularly if it’s relevant or not to them. 

Here’s the additional information that it presents: 

  1. The date the site was first indexed by Google. 
  2. The connection of the site—whether it’s secure or not.
  3. A list of similar terms—provides a list of words from the web page, which is part of the user’s query. 
  4. The page’s language. 
  5. The relevance of the result in the user’s country of origin. 

In simple terms, it makes it effortless for users to determine whether a website is trustworthy or not. And although Google has released this update, it’s still in beta at present. 

But if it does become a permanent fixture, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Secure your web page by using https. 
  • Only use quality backlinks.
  • Always match the intent of your keywords. 
  • Mobile-first Indexing (Rollout: March 2021)

In the early 2010s, mobile platforms became one of the most-used avenues for online users. It’s for this reason that Google introduced mobile-first indexing, which it uses to rank website pages according to their mobile versions. 

While it became the default for new websites in 2019, it’s now permanently implemented for websites both old and new. 

Here are a few tips on how you can optimize your website to be more mobile-friendly: 

  1. Make your site as responsive as possible. 
  2. Implement lazy loading and image compression.
  3. Test your website’s performance by conducting popups and form functionality reviews on your smartphone. 
  • Product Reviews (Rollout: April 2021)

To provide users with more accurate, in-depth, and original content, Google amended its ‘Product Reviews’ algorithm. Now, the search engine prioritizes web pages with well-researched and high-quality reviews instead of giving equal treatment to those that offer only thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. 

To better adhere to these new product review requirements, you can use this guide provided by Google: 

  1. Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
  2. Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  3. Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  4. Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  5. Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  6. Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  7. Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  8. Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  9. Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?
  • Multitask Unified Model (Rollout: May 2021)

Although almost everything can be found on the internet, the biggest hurdle users often face when it comes to search results is the language barrier. Most of the time, search results will come up with suggestions that are written and presented in a foreign language—making it hard for users to understand. 

However, with Google’s new Multitask Unified Model (MUM) this scenario could be addressed. The AI-powered tool uses contextual information from different sources to present comprehensive answers to complicated questions. 

“Say there’s really helpful information about Mt. Fuji written in Japanese; today, you probably won’t find it if you don’t search in Japanese. But MUM could transfer knowledge from sources across languages, and use those insights to find the most relevant results in your preferred language,” Google explained. 

“So in the future, when you’re searching for information about visiting Mt. Fuji, you might see results like where to enjoy the best views of the mountain, onsen in the area and popular souvenir shops—all information more commonly found when searching in Japanese,” the company added. 

  • Spam Update (Rollout: June 2021)

To better improve the results provided by its search engine, Google has implemented a new anti-spam update to its system. It came in two phases, which were both delivered in June this year.

Google didn’t go into much detail regarding this update and how it works. However, they did note that it will target all kinds of spam.

  • Page Experience Update (Rollout: June 2021)

On top of the Mobile-first Indexing update, Google has also integrated additional metrics, which they’re calling the Core Web Vitals. While these are not new, the search engine will use these as prioritized factors to quantify a person’s experience of a webpage.

Here they are:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – A metric for measuring perceived load speed because it marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded—a fast LCP helps reassure the user that the page is useful.
  2. First Input Delay (FID) – According to web.dev’s Philip Walton, this is used to measure load responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to interact with unresponsive pages—a low FID helps ensure that the page is usable.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This is mainly utilized for measuring visual stability because it helps quantify how often users experience unexpected layout shifts—a low CLS helps ensure that the page is delightful, said web.dev’s Philip Walton and Milica Mihajlija.

These metrics will be kept in place to measure the following: 

  • How long it takes a user to find or get to your page. 
  • How easy or difficult it is for a user to interact with your page.
  • How easy or difficult it is for users to become disoriented due to inconsistencies and shifts in your page’s layout.

What you need to do now is optimize your site’s user experience as these new measures will play significant roles in future page rankings. 

You can start by doing the following: 

  • Remove banners or interstitials that block content. 
  • Lessen Javascript execution.
  • Make use of Lazy Loading.
  • Compress photos and improve your site’s image retrieval.
  • Balance dimensions for embedded media and images.
  • Boost your server’s responsiveness.
  • Page Titles Update ( Rollout: August 2021)

According to Google, through this new update, they will no longer be adjusting page titles based on user queries but will be using H1s, image tags, and even anchor text from other pages as a basis in creating them.

The changes were released on August 16, and at present, it’s not being received positively by the community. Many have been voicing out their discontent since the update has negatively impacted their pages’ click-through rate (CTR), which refers to the total number of users who view and visit a page.

What You Need to Remember

While it’s important to keep up with Google’s algorithm update history, your job doesn’t end there. 

  1. You should be flexible enough to apply the changes immediately, which means you have to be knowledgeable on all aspects of your brand’s online store. Because if not, your page may suffer greatly when it comes to clicks, views, and visits – or worse fall in the rankings. 

If you’re not that proficient in this field, you can always partner with those who have experience. Social media management agencies in the Philippines are abundant so, you really won’t have a hard time finding a partner that you can trust. 

  1. And last but not least, you need to implement an effective SEO strategy. Just like social media agencies, there’s no shortage of SEO services in the Philippines, which you can turn to for your online store’s or website’s needs. 

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