03rd March 2021
March 2021: Organic search update.
We’ve been meaning to do this for a while, so here it is…every month going forwards, we are going to put aside some time to share some SEO insights with you all. This new monthly feature is where we’ll talk you through all the most important developments in the world of SEO. (Let’s be honest, this will be mostly Google updates.)
These updates should help you understand what you need to consider and look out for in your day-to-day SEO efforts.
Nothing too major happened in February, but Google is definitely putting things in place to change the way SERPs look and function in 2021.
Passage Based Ranking Live in the US
Google first announced this ranking update back in October of last year. The Passage Based Ranking Update a new method of Google ranking specific passages (or paragraphs) from a specific web page in search. Google is utilising AI in their ranking algorithm to help answer more niche user queries which may be mentioned in one passage of a web page rather than covered across the whole article.
Update: passage ranking launched yesterday afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English. It will come for more countries in English in the near future, then to other countries and languages after that. We’ll update this thread as those further launches happen.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) February 11, 2021
They explain: “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right, since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”
With new passage understanding capabilities, Google can understand that the result on the right is more relevant to a specific query than a more general page on that topic, as shown on the left.
This update shows once again how important detailed and up-to-date content is. This update means that you could rank for more queries if you get into more detail in your blog posts and informational site content.
Google has stated that passage-based indexing will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally. Currently, it is only being used on US-based searches but should impact searches in the UK very soon.
Google Launches ‘About this Result’ Feature
This month, Google rolled out a beta feature, which provides users with additional information on the site ranking for their query. The aim of this feature is to give users more context as to where the information in the search results is coming from. They hope that the feature will allow users to “make a more informed decision about the sites [they may] want to visit and what results will be most useful [to the user].”
Although we don’t anticipate this feature will be used all that much for quick everyday searches, we do imagine it will be useful for researching products and services which are more high value. If users will need to part with their money, further research is likely to happen.
Currently, this SERP feature is only visible in the US.
Google Updates Core Web Vitals Metric Boundaries in Search Console
With the Google Page Experience Update coming in May this year, developers and SEOs are all working hard to ensure websites are performing well in Google’s Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability. Essentially, this update means that user experience is to become an official Google ranking factor.
Google is providing frequent updates on this update, which is very rare of them to do, so it’s important to pay attention as it’s likely that this update is to have a significant impact on search rankings, much like ‘Mobilegeddon’ back in 2015.
Google said, “The metrics defining the boundaries for LCP, FID, CLS, which used to be < (less than), are now defined as <= (less than or equal to). ” Google disclosed the specific metrics boundaries, which I embedded below, but we know now for Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift – those specific boundaries changed from a less than to a less than or equal to the boundary.
Although this may seem like a minor change, it will provide a more accurate picture of how websites are performing in the run-up to this expected major ranking update.
Stay tuned for our March update next month, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch.