Google’s annual revenue has grown from US$400 million in 2002, to more than US$180 billion in 2020. And a significant portion of this comes from their search business. Which explains why changes are made to Google’s core algorithm daily.
However, these are small updates that improve the quality incrementally, without having a major impact on search results. Outside of this there are also a handful of major updates each year, with a few focusing on specific search features, and three or four broad core algorithm updates.
What Were the 2021 Updates?
During 2021 there were 12 announced updates. These are updates that Google announces beforehand, with most including details of what the update changes, what site owners can expect, and steps they can take to prepare.
The 2021 updates included two that focused on product reviews, three targeting spam or spam-like activities, a major update addressing Page Experience, and three core updates. The last of the core updates rolled out between 17 & 30 November 2021.
Unfortunately, the core update announcements never include specifics of what is changing. This is because the changes are meant to improve the overall search experience, making sure that the top results for any query are relevant and trustworthy.
But once a core algorithm update has finished rolling out, an analysis of search results usually shows that certain types of sites and industries are affected more than others.
What Industries and Types of Sites Were Affected by the November 2021 Core Update?
A Semrush analysis of position changes following the November 2021 core update found that seven percent of the pages now showing up in the top 10 results weren’t previously in the top 20 results. This means that more sites would have seen a far greater shift in rankings, with some improving and others disappearing from the top results.
However, Semrush Sensor Data showed that domains in most industries saw an almost equal gain and loss. Notably, Beauty & Fitness, Food & Drink, Law & Government, Real Estate, and Travel related domains lost more positions than they gained.
If your site saw some pages fall out of the top 10 or 20 results, it doesn’t mean you are being penalised for any violations. As Google points out:
there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall.
This simply means that other sites within the same industry were found to have pages or content that were more relevant to specific queries than yours were.
What to Do If You Were Negatively Affected by the November 2021 Core Update
No specifics are given for what has changed with each core algorithm update. However, we do know that the core updates are meant to improve the overall quality and relevance of the top results for any query. This is enough to give you an idea of what you should always focus on with your site, and include:
Look at the Quality of Your Content
This should always be a top priority for you, not only for news or blog posts, but for the rest of your website copy too. Ensure that the copy isn’t too thin, and that it gives as much relevant information as possible. Blog posts should be highly relevant to your audience, and answer the type of questions they have, going beyond the obvious. And avoid sensationalist or exaggerated headings; the article or page title should summarise the content.
Google’s Search Quality Rating Program uses people to rate the quality of content on websites. The Search Quality Raters assess both Page Quality (PQ) and Needs Met (NM), using a number of criteria, and it is important that you or the person writing your content knows and understands what the raters look at.
Analyse Your Competitors and Your Traffic
If you’re unsure of how to assess the quality of your own content, start by looking at the pages and sites that are ranking higher than you. For any pages or topics that are very similar to yours, compare the amount of detail and expertise that is evident in their copy versus your own. But don’t only look at the pages that rank higher than you, look at other static pages too, such as their About Us, Location, and Services pages.
You should also look at your own site’s traffic, focusing on the keywords and queries that bring people to your site. Is there sufficient content to properly address these? Or are you missing content that answers these queries in detail and with authority?
Look at the Page Experience
Having any volume of high-quality content isn’t all that matters. The page experience is also important, and this formed the basis of a separate Google algorithm update in 2021. Page experience is based on a number of metrics that include:
- how quickly pages load on both desktop and mobile devices,
- how stable the content is during and after loading,
- any detected security issues,
- whether the site uses HTTPS, and
- the ad experience
If your content is as good as that of pages ranking higher than you, it is likely that their page experience is better than yours.
These are all things you should focus on all the time, not just after a core algorithm update. Doing so will ensure that any impact of a core update is minimal and easier to fix. However, you should never attempt any significant changes to your website and content shortly before or during a core algorithm update. And if you feel you are ill-equipped for managing this in-house, work with an agency that understands SEO, the nature of Google algorithm updates, and the importance of quality content.