13th July 2021
July 2021: Organic Search update.
I know I say this almost every month, but the past few weeks have been extremely eventful in the world of SEO. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen this many major algorithm updates occur in such a short amount of time. Don’t let that worry you though, we’ve gathered all the information you need to know!
With not one, but three major algorithm updates in June, it’s likely your site will have seen some fluctuations in organic search rankings. Read on to find out what happened, and what you can do to minimise the negative impact.
Page Experience Update finally arrives.
On 15th June, Google announced that the Page Experience Update has finally started to roll out. This update to their ranking systems has been much awaited after Google initially teased it back in 2020. A heads-up like this is something they rarely do, so we knew from the get-go this one would be significant.
The page experience update is now slowly rolling out (Top Stories will begin using this new signal by Thursday). It will be complete by the end of August 2021. More here: https://t.co/kDwhhOYklK
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) June 15, 2021
What is the Page Experience Update?
In a nutshell, the page experience update combines the existing User Experience ranking factors with Core Web Vitals to create a new set of ranking signals. That being said, sites that provide a better experience will perform better in Google search. Google assesses each of the signals and gives each website an overall ‘page experience’ score. Site owners can view their score in the new page experience report in Search Console.
Here are some of the signals Google has deemed important for creating the optimal browsing experience:
- Core Web Vitals: A Google initiative which provides unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience on the web.
- Mobile usability: Essentially, a page must have no usability errors on mobile.
- HTTPS usage: A page should be served over HTTPS to be eligible for ‘Good’ page experience status.
- Ad Experience: Any ads present on a site should not be distracting, or interrupt the user journey. Pop-ups which are hard to close or large ad takeovers which obstruct the page’s content are examples of issues which may impact a good user experience.
- Security issues: Any security issues for a site disqualify all pages on the site from a ‘Good’ status.
After being postponed from the initial rollout date of May 2021, we have had plenty of time to prepare. If you’re still not sure what you need to do to ensure your site is ticking all the boxes for this new update, take a look at Google’s latest statement.
Google has stated that “page experience won’t play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August”. They have also added that sites should not expect to see drastic changes as a result of the update, any sudden drops or spikes should be mitigated by the gradual rollout process. Phew!
July Core Update.
With the June Core Update rollout finishing on June 12, Google wasted no time rolling out the next core update. The July Core Update launched on July 1. Whereas the June 2021 core update took more time to roll out and be felt, the July 2021 core update had a large impact almost immediately. It’s a standard ‘broad core update’ that Google releases every several months or so.
On the plus side, Google stayed true to their word, as they did warn us about this update in June. Like all core updates of this nature, this was a global update, meaning it was not specific to any region, language or website niche.
The interesting thing about this update is that Google has explicitly said that “any core update can produce drops or gains for some content. Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July….”
This is definitely something I have seen a lot with the sites I am monitoring, have you noticed any ranking reversals with your sites?
Google Search Spam Algorithm Update.
To add to an already very hectic month, on June 23, Google confirmed that it has released a search ‘spam update.’ The update started and completed on a single day, June 23rd.
In a classic Google fashion, they did not reveal exactly what type of spam they targeted with this update but just linked to its general spam prevention notices. Part two of the spam update was released on June 28th.
The good news is that legitimate websites with unique content, following Google’s webmaster guidelines, have nothing to worry about in respect to these spam updates. Google has a strict definition of what it considers ‘spam’, so there shouldn’t be too much guesswork here. According to Google, spam sites are low-quality sites which trick users into providing personal information or installing malware.
Google consistently works towards fighting spam, so this update shouldn’t be anything to worry about. It’s just good to be aware that they have rolled out three significant updates recently, and while these roll-out, rankings are likely to fluctuate, and then calm down.
Search Console Insights.
On the same day Google announced the Page Experience update, they launched a new feature on Search Console, called Search Console Insights. This feature is another in the long line that Google have pushed out recently, this one is designed to assist site owners in understanding their audience a little better.
Search Console Insights merges data from both Search Console and Google Analytics in a joint effort to paint a clearer picture of content performance.
Search Console Insights can help you answer a whole range of questions about your site, such as:
- What search terms are users typing into Google to find my content?
- Do users search for content around my products/services in Google?
- What are my top-performing pieces of content, and which ones are trending at the moment?
You can easily access Search Console Insights via the new link at the top of the Overview page. Soon it will be accessible from Google’s iOS app, with support for the Android app being planned as well. It is currently listed as a beta product.
Another way to access the data about your content is by searching in Google itself. Try using a query you know your site ranks for. This will return a Google-powered result at the top of the page titled ‘Search performance for this query.’
That result will contain an entry point to Search Console Insights, as seen below:
It should be noted that this feature currently only supports Google Analytics UA properties, although Google is working to support GA4.
Stay tuned for the next update in August, hopefully, there will be fewer updates in the coming weeks so we can all catch our breath! If you have any SEO related questions or any concerns about your rankings as a result of these updates, do not hesitate to get in touch.