2021 in Search

It’s that time of year – time for Google’s 2021 “Year in Search” video! Watch it on YouTube or visit the blog article, In 2021, the world searched for healing.

For more on the Year in Search, visit these pages:

Google November 2021 Core Algorithm Update Finished…

Google announced that the November Core Algorithm Update was completed on November 30th. This update began on November 17th and shocked many as it lasted through Cyber 5.

While the timing makes it more difficult to attribute any performance changes over Cyber 5 solely to the algorithm update, if your site is seeing ranking changes between these two dates, it was likely impacted.

…And the Product Reviews Update Began

On the heels of the November Core Algorithm update finishing, Google launched the December 2021 product reviews update. This is the second announced product reviews update of 2021 (the first was in April) and is “designed to promote high-quality product reviews.”

The search engine has said that if your site reviews products and you’ve made changes since the April update, you may see those improvements reflected in your performance with this update. Google said that the update would take up to 3 weeks.

It’s important to note that sites that do not publish product reviews can feel the impact of this type of update, even though it’s not aimed at their content. If you’re in an industry with products that are often reviewed (e.g. technology, sporting goods, and others) you may see an indirect impact. When review sites are targeting keywords that bring organic traffic to your site, their ranking changes can mean fluctuations for you, too.

And Then There Was a Local Algorithm Update

There has been a lot of chatter in the local SEO community about ranking volatility, and Google finally confirmed the November 2021 local search update, which lasted from Nov. 30 – Dec. 16. So yes, it’s been a very busy few weeks.

Accidental GSC Notifications

You may have received a notification from Google Search Console on Dec. 12 or Dec. 13 stating that your website has one or more redirect errors. Google confirmed these messages were sent in error due to an internal bug and that they can be safely ignored.

No action is required. However, if you received this email after those dates, you’ll want to address any issues in your Search Console account.

Google PageSpeed Insights Revamped

Now living at https://pagespeed.web.dev/, the PageSpeed Insights tool has undergone quite a few interface changes with the goal of making the tool more user-friendly.

The tool more clearly separates lab and field data, provides information about how the sampled data was collected, and includes an origin summary providing aggregated CrUX scores from all pages from the submitted domain.

To learn more about what’s new, see Google’s article here.

The End of AMP?

AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, was an initiative created by Google in 2016 to streamline web experiences on mobile devices. For a while, AMP was required to get into the Top Stories carousel on Page 1 of search results. With the release of Google’s page experience update and Core Web Vitals, AMP results are no longer favored in SERPs.

Additionally, more and more big-name sites are discontinuing the use and support of AMP sites, including Search Engine Land. Twitter recently announced it will no longer send any users to AMP pages. Instead, it will direct them to the original webpage.

If you still use AMP, you may continue doing so and sharing those links on Twitter, but Twitter will automatically reroute those links to the original URL instead of the AMP page when clicked.

Local Shopping: 4 New Features Added to Google Maps

Google Maps has introduced new features, available worldwide, to help improve the local shopping experience for customers. The features include:

1. Area busyness: Similar to busyness for individual business, Google Maps shows how busy an entire area is to help people avoid large crowds.

2. Directory tab: Used in airports, transit stations, and malls, the directory tab shows information for stores, business, airport lounges, and more that are located within the larger buildings.

3. Grocery shopping: Across 30+ states and 2,000 store locations, users can now order groceries from Kroger, Fry’s Ralphs, and Marianos for pickup.

4. Restaurant information produced by customers: More information on price and amenities will be displayed for local restaurants, all provided by or aggregated from customer reviews.

Google Merchant Center: New Competitive Visibility Report

Google has begun rolling out a new competitive visibility report available in the Google Merchant Center. The report helps merchants understand the competitive landscape for their Google Shopping ads and free listings on the product category level.

The metrics included in this report are relative visibility, page overlap rate, and higher position rate. All three metrics provide insights on how to improve your visibility in the Google Shopping space based on your own impression data.

Google Takes Months to Evaluate Website Quality Across the Internet

John Mueller, a Search Advocate at Google, has stated that it can take months or longer for Google to understand how a particular website fits into the overall web when “assessing the overall quality and relevance of a website.”

This is why SEO initiatives can take months to impact performance, as it takes Google time to recognize that pages or sites are better or worse than they originally recognized.

Negative Reviews Are Valuable, Too

We all want our businesses to have nothing but positive reviews, but even the best companies can have unhappy customers. Did you know that both positive and negative reviews can add value to your Google Business Profile? As long as they are honest and objective, every review has value – especially if you respond to that review in a thoughtful and productive way.

88% of respondents to a recent Yelp survey said they’d look past a few negative reviews if the business has responded to address the issue.

It’s important to know that customers often feel like a business is more trustworthy if they show a mix of reviews. If a review violates Google’s guidelines, you can ask to have it removed, but try addressing honest negative reviews rather than trying to get rid of them.