You might already know this… but did you know that Google has over 200 ranking factors that its algorithms use to rank websites on search engine pages? In case you are wondering why you still don’t see a glimpse of your website at the first few pages of SERPs, perhaps it’s about time to check which of these factors you are not ticking off the list.
And if the long list of ranking factors isn’t just enough to justify how complex its algorithm is, Google has been rolling out frequent updates to its algorithm. This means that although most of these updates are considered minor, the major algorithmic updates that Google releases should not go completely unnoticed since they can significantly impact your website’s placement in SERPs.
Since Google has been rolling out these updates more frequently than in its early years, the leading search engine has been taking one step ahead in making these changes known to its users. Google now uses a generic default naming pattern that uses the month and year to indicate the latest updates.
In this article, we tackle the most recent SEO changes in 2021 that you need to know and look forward to.
January 2021 Google Algorithm Update
For the first month of the year, Google is already on the roll with its algorithm and search industry updates. Here are some major changes to discuss:
Index Coverage Data Improvements in Google Search Console
January 11, 2021
Google has made several changes to the crawl errors report in the new Search Console. Launching the Index Coverage report shows how Google crawls and indexes URLs that Google has visited on your website. With new improvements to this report, people are now better informed on the issues of their website pages that could be hindering Google from crawling and indexing web pages. The list of changes include:
- The generic “crawl anomaly” issue type is removed – all crawl errors should now be mapped to an issue with a finer resolution.
- Pages that were submitted but blocked by robots.txt and got indexed are now reported as “indexed but blocked” (warning) instead of “submitted but blocked” (error)
- Addition of a new issue: “indexed without content” (warning)
- Soft 404 reporting is now more accurate
With the new Index Coverage Report, the existing issues are stated more accurately for better understanding so that you can solve the issues more efficiently.
Google News performance report added to Google Search Console
January 12, 2021
Google announced the launching of a new dedicated performance report for all websites appearing in Google News. According to Google, this Google News performance reporting will aid news publishers in understanding better user behaviors on Google News on Android and iOS apps, as well as on news.google.com.
Google threatens to remove its search engine from Australia
January 22, 2021
Apparently, Australia is pressuring two tech giants, Facebook and Google to share royalties with news publishers. By introducing a world-first law that potentially makes tech companies pay media outlets for their content.
According to the government, it is only right that tech giants should pay new publishers a “fair” amount for their journalism since they gain audiences and customers from the news people read.
As a response to this, both US firms warned the Australian lawmakers that passing this law will ultimately drive them to withdraw their services out of the country. This means Google saying goodbye to Australia.
Australia isn’t Google’s largest market. However, the proposed code may cause other governments to see through the way they regulate big tech firms. Google Australia managing director Mel Silva told a Senate hearing on Friday that the said code is infeasible.
“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva mentioned in a senate hearing in January.
Australians have communicated disarray and outrage online over this and some have discussed whether they could get by utilizing other web search tools. If the laws are passed, Facebook and Google are only the ones that will be affected by the news code. With Google’s stance on this issue of withdrawing their services should the law is passed, it will be most likely that the Australians will have to be forced to use other search engines available to them such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo!
Google redesigns the mobile search results
January 22, 2021
Google has rolled out a “new and improved” design version of mobile search results, with is said to have an edge-to-edge design that provides a more superb experience that makes searching much easier.
“We decided to create a new edge-to-edge results design and to minimize the use of shadows, making it easier to immediately see what you’re looking for.”
The overall effect is that you have more visual space and breathing room for Search results and other content to take center stage.” Google designer Aileen Cheng emphasized.
With readability and accessibility in mind, the new updated mobile search research is more user-friendly than ever and is improving the user experience in three main ways —- easier reading, simpler design, and modern approach.
Now the labels and sections are bigger and clear, with a design that is more on white space to give important content more emphasis, and lastly an overall approach of friendly, simple but modern all rolled in one look.
February 2021 Google Algorithm Update
The updates keep rolling in for the 2nd month. Here are some updates from Google’s SEO industry that may or may have and impact on your websites:
Shopping Search Results With “Black-owned” Label by Google
February 1, 2021
This is Google bringing in efforts to support a black-owned business and with February being a “black history month”. Search interest in Black-owned businesses has increased to up to 600% in the past year. Now Google has updated the Google Merchant Center with the “black-owned” badge to label businesses and products that are black-owned. Although this feature is only available in the US, it would be interesting to see this feature available in other jurisdictions in the future.
Passage based ranking launched in the US English Results
February 10, 2021
Danny Sullivan of Google updated his Twitter about Google launching passage ranking (passage indexing) live in the US English results. Although it is not a major update that will tank your website traffic, it is Google’s way of helping the search engine sift algorithmically long pieces of content to understand it better in order to deliver more reliable and best results to Google users.
When it was first launched in October 2020, it was said that it will impact about 7% of search queries. Google said that the content is not indexing them separately but ranking them separately for various queries.
Google Search Console Core Web Vitals Boundaries Changes
February 17, 2021
This is somehow a small change in the core web vitals data in the Google Search Console. Instead of using the (<) less than symbol to indicate a boundary, Google now uses the (<=) less than or equal to sign to define the boundaries for
Google made a small change to how it plots the core web vitals data in Google Search Console. The change goes into effect on February 17, 2021, and using less than, Google is now using less than or equal to in defining boundaries in the core web vitals— LCP, FID, CLS which results in seeing a change in metrics indicators from red to yellow or yellow to green. Although the change in boundaries is relatively small, Google says that if your URLs are at a point with these boundaries, it can have a positive impact on your site’s core web vitals metrics.
The boundaries are now as follows:
LCP: Good (<=2.5s); needs improvement (<=4s); poor (>4s)
FID: Good (<=100ms); needs improvement (<=300ms); poor (>300ms)
CLS: Good (<=0.1); needs improvement (<=0.25); poor (>0.25)
A follow up on the Google vs Australian Publishers Feud
February 15, 2019
Following Google’s threats of removing its search engine from Australia as the government is looking into having Google pay news publishers, the tech giant finally agreed on paying those whose news is featured in the News Showcase. This only means that Australia will still have Google as its main search engine.
We’re still in the 1st quarter of the year 2021 and there haven’t been many updates yet now but we are to expect more until the end of the year. The thing that is constant about SEO is that it is always changing and we can expect more as we look forward to SEO changes in 2021. As we live about the new normal, just like last year’s SEO update spree where there’s been plenty of changes that kept marketers on high alert, more updates are bound to happen in lieu of Google’s attempt to make its services even better for its users.