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07.12.2021

15 min read

November 2021 Google Algorithm and Search Industry Updates

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Updates across the search industry centred mainly around Google in November 2021. This month’s Google algorithm and search updates post explores:

  • Google’s November 2021 Core Update
  • Google to Launch New Feature to Support Local News
  • Google My Business Is Changing – What to Be Aware Of
  • Google: Keep 301 Redirects In Place For A Year
  • Google Confirms That Bolded Text Can Help Your SEO
  • New Google Search Console UI Designed to Improve Accessibility and User Experience
  • Google’s Pagespeed Insights Gets a Lick of Contentful Paint

As usual, we’ve set out using a traffic light system to show their relative significance – a red light is for a priority update that requires your attention, a green light highlights less pressing news, and amber sits somewhere in the middle.

Read on for the latest news and updates in the search industry.

Explaining Google’s November 2021 Core Update

On November 17th 2021, around four months after the last core update, Google announced its latest broad core algorithm update.

What was the initial impact of November’s core update?

According to Semrush, there was a significant spike in SERP volatility immediately following the update, although this fell to normal levels only a couple of days into the update rolling out.

 

We saw a similar spike in volatility following the previous core update in July earlier this year, although the return to normal levels was more gradual and over a longer period of time. This may suggest that Google’s updates are becoming less pronounced, although we will need to wait and see whether this trend continues to better understand the direction of future updates.

How volatile was November’s core update?

There were many suggestions that the November core update didn’t have the disruptive impact of a major update, leading many search marketers to believe that the majority of Google’s changes were related to infrastructure. Compared to the July update, however, we did see greater volatility this time (at least in the short term). This was particularly felt for mobile search results, which saw 23% more volatility during November’s update by comparison, with desktop undergoing 12% more volatility. 

Which industries were impacted most?

On an industry level, November’s update also appears to have been more volatile. Semrush analysed 17 verticals, 16 of which showed higher volatility in November compared to July, with a 20% higher average volatility:

As with a number of core updates, the health industry was the most impacted niche during the November update, leading to 41% higher relative volatility on both desktop and mobile. 

Interestingly, the large increase the real estate industry experienced in summer was met with far less volatility this time around.  

The industries that experienced the largest increase in desktop ranking volatility (30% or greater relative to July) were:

  • Pets & Animals
  • Health
  • Real Estate
  • Autos & Vehicles
  • Travel

The industries that experienced the largest increase in mobile ranking volatility (30% or greater relative to July) were:

  • Health
  • Pets & Animals
  • Science
  • People & Society
  • Real Estate

Qualifying the impact of the November 2021 update

Last month’s update wasn’t simply more volatile than July’s, the extent of this volatility also had a greater impact in terms of rank movement.

During July’s update, out of the top 10 SERP results, 5% ranked beyond position 20 prior to the update, whereas in November, almost 7% of pages that made it into the top 10 results were not within the top 20 positions before the update. This implies that ranking shifts were more drastic following the November update compared to July’s.

Despite this, we see a different picture when we focus solely on the top 5 results: 

  • During the July 2021 Core Update 7.4% of URLs ranking in the top 5 previously ranked beyond position 20;
  • During the November 2021 Core Update only 4.4% of URLs ranking in the top 5 previously ranked beyond position 20. 

This means that for the ranking positions that hold the most weight in terms of organic search visibility were less impacted by November’s update than July’s. We can establish that Google was far more willing to drastically alter rankings for positions 5-10 than it was for positions 1-5 during November’s update.

Average Gains and Losses From the November 2021 Core Update

To get a better understanding of just what positive and negative impacts the November update had, we can take a look at the top 100 websites that saw the biggest losses and gains for the following picture:

  • The November 2021 core update winners gained around 33 positions, with an average position of 10.
  • The losses look slightly more moderate. On average, those hit the hardest by the update lost around 28 positions. Just as during the July 2021 update, the average page that was within the top 100 most negatively affected list ranked at position 16.

What does this mean for me?

Despite the figures suggesting that this update created more volatility, social media has remained relatively quiet following the roll out of this update, suggesting that whatever impact it has was not widely felt in the way a major update would be.

Site owners that have seen noticeable increases or decreases in rankings should not expect to see any major changes in rankings outside of normal fluctuations until the next core update and can read Google’s advice around core updates for more information.

As this update saw a heavier influence on mobile rankings, it may be the case that future core algorithm updates will also place a greater emphasis on mobile, making it important for site owners to pay particular attention to mobile experience and performance on their website.

As with every core update, Google also places a greater emphasis on quality content, so a good way to mitigate any disruption caused by every algorithm update is to keep creating great content and perfect your existing pages.

If your site has been negatively affected, take a look at our guide to recovering from an algorithm update for a step-by-step place on action.

Google to Launch New Feature to Support Local News

In a recent product update blog, Google announced that it will be launching a new Local News SERP feature to support local publishers, improving their visibility in organic search.

The new tool will highlight news stories specifically taken from local news sites. It’ll be displayed when a user searches for a query that’s best served by outlets from a particular location (e.g. ‘public transport updates near me’).

You can see an example of how this feature will look in the SERPs here:

[Source]

The new Local News feature will also be accompanied by improvements to the ranking process for more general news features. Where relevant, SERP features such as Top Stories will include more local news sources alongside national publications going forward.

What does this mean for me?

If you work on a local news site, these changes could mean that your site appears more frequently and for a wider range of queries in Google Search. As a result, you might start to see users coming to your site who would never have found it before, increasing your organic traffic overall.

Even for those of us who have no connection to local publishers, the Local News SERP feature will still offer an enhanced user experience. It’ll mean that you have easier access to the most relevant sources of information when your query is best served by news outlets in the local area.

Google My Business Is Changing – What to Be Aware Of

Google My Business is changing its name to Google Business Profile and there are a few other changes to be aware of.

“Moving forward, we recommend small businesses manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps. To keep things simple, ‘Google My Business’ is being renamed ‘Google Business Profile,’” wrote Matt Madrigal, VP/GM Merchant Shopping, in the official announcement.

“And in 2022, we’ll retire the Google My Business app so more merchants can take advantage of the upgraded experience on Search and Maps,” he added.

The option to edit your Business Profile information from search has been around for several months, but now you can complete the verification process and resolve other issues with your Business Profile directly from search. 

It’s as simple as typing your business name into Google search – the results will read ‘Your business on Google’ and allow you to edit from there.

Using this function you can also edit what people see when they search for your business, like your address, business hours, make posts, respond to reviews, and more.

Keeping your Google Business Profile updated regularly is important to your local SEO endeavours. According to Ipsos Research, an up-to-date Google Business Profile:

  • Is 2.7x more likely to be considered more reputable.
  • Gets 7x more clicks.
  • Is 70% more likely to attract location visits.
  • Is 50% more likely to lead to a purchase.

What does this mean for me?

It’s important for businesses to note that any user can suggest an edit to a Business Profile – this can include your address, hours, upload photos, reviews, and more.

So it’s vital that you frequently check your Google Business Profile to make sure that no incorrect changes were made to your profile.

The way in which profiles will be managed will change for many users – 

Businesses with multiple profiles or locations: If your business has multiple locations or you are an agency that manages multiple client locations, the best way to manage your profiles is to log in to the Business Profile Manager dashboard.

Businesses with single profiles/locations: If you are a local business with only one location, the easiest way to manage your Google Business Profile is directly from Google Search! You can also manage directly from the Google Maps App.

Google: Keep 301 Redirects In Place For A Year

There are two main types of redirects people use on websites: 301s and 302s.

A 301 redirect indicates to Google that a page has been moved permanently, and a 302 redirect signals a temporary page move.

A site move is a permanent change, so a 301 redirect is the appropriate action to take in this case. To reduce the potential negative impact a site migration can have on your SEO, a year is the bare minimum length of time to keep 301 redirects in place.

Google’s John Mueller said:

“At Google we try to reprocess all pages at least every few months. Most pages are checked more often. However, the amount of crawling is limited and there are many pages that we’d like to crawl, so we have to prioritize.

When a URL changes our systems need to see the change in the form of a redirect at least a few times in order to record that change.

To be certain that a redirect has been seen a few times, we recommend keeping the redirect in place for at least one year.”

What does this mean for me?

You are not required to redirect pages from the old site to a new URL if you no longer wish to keep these pages. 

For pages that you want to keep and therefore redirect, it is crucial to update all references to the old URLs, such as key external links.

To summarise, keeping redirects in place for more than a year is absolutely acceptable. You are free to leave them up for as long as you wish.

Google Confirms That Bolded Text Can Help Your SEO

Whilst it’s definitely worth addressing this head on, you should take it with a hefty pinch of salt. In a recent Google SEO office hours session, John Mueller responded to a question by confirming that Google pays more attention to bolded text on a page:

“So usually we do try to understand what the content is about on a web page, and we look at different things to try to figure out what is actually being emphasized here, and that includes things like headings on a page.

But it also includes things like what is actually bolded or emphasized within the text on the page. So to some extent that does have a little bit of extra value there, in that it’s a clear sign that actually you think this page or this paragraph is about this topic here.

And usually that aligns with what we think the page is about anyway, so it doesn’t change that much.”

It’s important to note here that bolded text will only add ‘a little bit of extra value’ and ‘doesn’t change that much’. With this in mind, don’t go crazy with bolding sections of text across your site as this won’t help you to rank and will negatively impact the user experience you provide.

John went on to explain that the significance of bolding text from Google’s point of view is relative:

“The other thing is that this is, to a large extent, relative within the webpage. So if you go off and say, well I will just make my whole page bold and then Google will think my page is the most important one, then by making everything bold essentially nothing is bold because it’s all the same.

Whereas if you take a handful of sentences or words within your full page where you say this is really important for me and you bold those, then it’s a lot easier for us to say well here’s a lot of text, and this is potentially one of the most important points of this page, and we can give that a little bit more value.

And essentially what that kind of goes into is everything around semantic HTML where you’re giving a little bit more meaning to a page by using the proper markup for the page. And from our point of view that’s good. It helps us to understand the page a little bit better.”

From this, we can assume that it might help to bold one or two key points in a long-form piece of content – as well as helping Google to understand the page, it’s also likely to help your reader focus on the most important pieces of information you have to offer.

That said, bolding is unlikely to have any effect on the rankings of most pages, especially if they’re already structured logically with optimised headers, copy, and other on-page SEO best practices.

What does this mean for me?

To reiterate, don’t take this as a directive to start bolding sections of text on pages across your site. If you’re writing a particularly lengthy piece of informational content, it might help to bold one or two phrases that are crucial to its meaning. In most cases, however, bolding will have no impact on your rankings.

New Google Search Console UI Designed to Improve Accessibility and User Experience

On the 22nd November 2021, Google announced that it was starting work on refreshing the appearance of Google Search Console.

As stated in the announcement, the main focus of this update is on improving accessibility and also user experience:

The new and improved user interface (UI) doesn’t alter any of the features available in Search Console, but it does give the tool a fresh new look:

The changes to the colour scheme and icons are also intended to help improve accessibility, making it easier for everyone to get the most out of Search Console.

What does this mean for me?

Aside from improving your experience of Search Console, the new UI isn’t going to have any effect on your digital marketing efforts. That said, it’s always nice to see incremental improvements in Google’s offering.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights Gets a Lick of Contentful Paint

Google rolled out a new look and new URL for its PageSpeed Insights tool. According to Addy Osmani, the upgrade makes the PageSpeed Insights tool “more intuitive” and gives clearer definitions of lab data and field data when analysing sites.

In terms of the URL, that has moved to https://pagespeed.web.dev/ (so let’s hope they got their 301 redirects in place!)

One of the key changes to the PageSpeed Insights layout is new dedicated sections for lab data and field data with clearer labelling and a new section on a variety of different metrics including network connections, visit durations, and devices.

What does this mean for me?

Core Web Vitals and page speed are fundamental to providing the best UX possible and while they aren’t heavily-weight ranking signals, they’re still important to get right. Google’s decision to make their PageSpeed Insights tool more intuitive and easy to understand is a step in the right direction for marketers.

   

If you’d like to discuss how these changes will affect you – and what Impression can do to help out – get in touch today.