Google says they are committed to simplifying online search, and are on a mission to shut down people trying to trick the system – as ever, conducting SEO to Google’s rules is the best way to increase your rankings. The 2021 updates continue to focus on Google’s efforts to highlight pages containing something of good quality, which is unique and relevant to the person searching.
The updates rolled out throughout 2021, had 3 key areas of focus – Medical, Health and Wellness; Product Reviews and Anti-Spamming.
Medical, Health and Wellness
Google has focused on site quality in this sector in particular through it’s YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) algorithm updates. First launched in 2019, updates impacting this sector are overseen by human beings following strict guidelines. Google says it does this as they hold healthcare professionals to a higher page quality than standard.
Google says that for Medical, Health and Wellness sites, it is looking for the following :
- Excellent quality of content, clearly demonstrating Expertise, Skills and Talent
- EAT – Expertise, Authority and Trust
- Reputation of the author of the website content
Medical, Health and Wellbeing covers Medicine, Dentistry, Counselling, Herbalists, Fertility and Nutrition amongst others.
Google continues to focus on not only your site quality, but also the quality of your products or services. It already uses customer reviews in it’s ranking algorithm, and this latest update looks at your product descriptions in detail, seeking out better product information for shoppers.
Google is looking for factual content, with less fluff, less repetition and penalizes overly salesy wording, particularly where the copy directs consumers to Amazon.
Google’s advice to content writers targets EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust) fundamentals, and includes :
- Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate
- Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer
- Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision
- Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas. For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
If you conduct “white hat” SEO, none of these updates will impact you. These updates are all about weeding out bad practises – ranging from hidden links, malicious behaviour through to identifying and taking down revenge porn.
Google has created some specific guidelines for website operators to follow :
Avoid the following techniques:
- Automatically generated content (e.g. auto-translated without human curation before publishing or nonsensical content built around target keywords)
- Participating in link schemes (Buying backlinks rather than earning them – Google now ignores spammy looking links in it’s ranking algorithm)
- Creating pages with little or no original content or Scraped content (Plagiarism)
- Cloaking (Showing different data to search engines vs searchers)
- Sneaky redirects or Hidden text or links
- Doorway pages (Similar pages on your site that essentially do the same job and take the user to the same place)
- Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value (where product descriptions are copied from the original merchant without adding any value)
- Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
- Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
Follow good practices:
- Monitoring your site for hackingand removing hacked content as soon as it appears
- Preventing and removing user-generated spam on your site
The best of the rest
There were 3 other update types that are significant :
- Passage indexing – Google now looks at passages within your copy, rather than the complete article to determine relevancy to a search. This was updated with the “Multitask Unified Model” (MUM) update in June, which uses advanced AI to focus on the nuance of a passage of content to a search. The idea is to identify irrelevant content and to downgrade it.
- Page experience – Better known as “Core Web Vitals” – This update is all about improving user experience. Google is looking for mobile-friendliness, fast and secure servers and avoidance of interruptions such as pop-up advertising. This is one to watch as Google have included this update high in the SEO ranking factors. See our blog from earlier in the year for all of the details.
- Page title rewrites – Google have introduced automated page title rewrites. Google are trying to help you refine each page for search, but this update is deeply unpopular with digital marketers who have carefully crafted their titles
Google are taking good steps towards improving search results by making these changes and additions to their 200+ ranking factor algorithm. However before you get too distracted, the top 10 of SEO do still remain the same :
If you find staying on top of Google’s constant changes rather baffling, please just contact us for a chat to find out how we look after our SEO clients and how we can help you.