Regularly, sometimes monthly, Google will update its search engine algorithm. One of the biggest updates from the past was the addition of RankBrain in 2015, Google’s machine learning system that helps to better understand the user intent of a search query. This had a massive ripple effect across the internet and the ways businesses execute digital marketing strategy.

If you want to stay on top of how to best utilize Google to improve your sales, you’ll need to stay on top of new algorithm updates and how it impacts search engine results. Here are some of the more notable Google algorithm updates that came out in 2021.

Image of a search engine with the "about this result" panel highlighted- one of the many google algorithm updates

Click on the image to enlarge for more clarity.

February 2021 Google Algorithm Update

About the Result

In February 2021, Google added more information for each search result that they titled “About this Result”. They wanted to provide users with more context to help them determine which links will be more helpful in their search.

As you can see in the image above, the “About this Result” update includes important information including:

  • When the site was first indexed
  • The site’s primary language
  • Whether the site has a secure or unsecured connection
  • Keywords on the page that correlate with your search
  • Whether other pages in the same search result link to the page

Passage Ranking

Google uses artificial intelligence to index your website and, in particular, each of your webpages. The passage ranking update allows them to better go even deeper, indexing specific sentences and paragraphs of websites. If your website has a great definition of a marketing funnel, Google may pull that “snippet” of information out to provide searchers with a ready-made answer for their query.  This new update will make it easier to utilize long-tail keywords and help businesses that prioritize high-quality content get found easier in search engine results pages (SERPS).

March 2021 Google Algorithm Update

Person looking at their phone while sitting at a desk researching google algorithm updates.

Mobile Indexing for ALL Websites

A Google algorithm update in 2015 made mobile websites a higher ranking factor. In 2019, mobile-first indexing became the default for all NEW websites. The trend toward mobile-first extends to June 2021 where mobile indexing is now the default for ALL websites- new or old.

Essentially, this means that if your website is not mobile optimized, you are at a serious disadvantage in getting found by your customers. Take advantage of this update by making sure your website is responsive, fast and fully functional.

May 2021 Google Algorithm Update

Mum’s the Word

As Google’s algorithm evolves, it has the ability to dive deeper into the internet to grab content that searches crave. One of those evolutions, Multitask Unified Model or MUM, is a natural language model that “helps you when there is a simple answer”. Its goal is to provide you with answers to complex questions by scouring the internet for multiple, high-level sources.

Example:

I love hamburgers, but hate ketchup and mustard; what other condiments go well on hamburgers?

This example may seem like a convoluted search query, but, with MUM, queries like this are more and more actionable. Mum is currently being implemented across 75 languages.

June 2021 Google Algorithm Update

The Page Experience Update

One of the most important updates that Google rolled out was the page experience update, also called Core Web Vitals. It includes 3 primary metrics that measure the user experience of a website:

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)- how stable is the layout of your webpages
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)- how fast does your content load
  • First Input Delay (FID)- how quickly do your webpages respond to the user’s first action

While these core metrics are not new to the algorithm, Google has placed more importance on them, making the UX quality and structure of your website much more important for being found in searches.

August 2021 Google Algorithm Update

Page Title Tweaking

The page title update is one that is not going over very well with website owners across the internet. On August 16, Google made some changes to the way they display your page title in SERPs.

Typically, the search result would include your chosen meta title, giving you full control of how users see your webpages. This update is meant to better match the query intent with your webpage. Instead of the meta title or H1, the algorithm could identify text on the page they think matches with the intent.

This had led to disastrous effects in click-through rate for many websites as the algorithm is still working out the kinks in its query/result matching system. While it doesn’t negatively impact your ranking, it will impact how relevant your webpage title will look to the user which could have mixed results for click-through rate.  

Stay Current on Google Algorithm Updates

It can sometimes be easy to forget that Google is a private company that can adjust their popular search engine any way they see fit. As you can see with the page title update, even minor changes in the algorithm can have a massive effect on your SERP results. Staying on top of the frequent changes can be a huge help in developing your ongoing SEO strategy. Bookmark this page for continuous updates on Google Algorithm updates.


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