21st September 2021
September 2021: Organic Search update.
After another eventful summer of Google updates, the past month has had no shortage of shifts in the world of SEO. Right on cue, we’re here to talk you through the most important updates from the world of search engine optimisation, and explain what each of the updates mean for you and your website.
Google starts rewriting title tags.
On 16 August, we noticed Google started replacing the title tags in SERPs with other relevant text from a webpage. Fellow SEO-ers will understand how frustrating this is, as meta tag optimisation is a key part of optimising a page for your target keywords.
Google has been known to rewrite and show different meta descriptions for years and years, but this move to rewriting page titles in SERPs is a controversial move from the search engine giant. They claim to do this because they understand the user intent and want to ensure the meta tags correspond to them. However, this new update definitely isn’t going as smoothly as planned…
For instance, this rewrite on the gov.uk’s site is an example of where Google has got it very very wrong. (For non-UK readers, HMRC is the UK tax collector, so tax avoidance is positioning this site in the worst of ways.)
Hopefully this is just a teething problem, and Google will be better at only tweaking title tags which need refining.
Most instances show that Google is swapping the title tags which have been deliberately implemented in the HTML with the H1 tag, which is not always best for user experience.
Google confirmed on August 24th that “our new system is producing titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.”
The SEO community is kicking up a bit of a fuss about this latest update as in some cases, organic search CTRs have suffered. For some it feels that hard-earned rankings from hours of on-page optimisation and keyword research may have been done in vain. The good news is that Google themselves have reassured us that creating good HTML tags is still important, so all we can hope is that they refine the process so only pages without title tags get rewritten. Google have stated that the HTML title is “still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.”
Have you noticed many changes on how your site pages are being represented in SERPs?
Page Experience Update rollout complete.
Google announced that the Page Experience Update finally finished rolling out on 2nd September. The announcement was largely met with a hushed response online, which is understandable as it’s been a largely drawn-out process. (Google began rolling out the Page Experience update on June 15th.)
Nevertheless this is a big update and it’ll definitely pay off to pay attention to it. This update is particularly important because Google rarely confirms ranking signals to us in such an explicit way. So the fact that we know exactly what Google is looking for when it comes to page experience in search results, we should use that information as best as we can and assign resources to improving page experience signals. Read more about the Page Experience update and how Google measures the user experience on web pages here.
New Structured Data URL property to identify authors.
On 10 August, Google added a new property to their list of recommended structured data to use on news, blog and article pages. The author.url property is a new recommended property you can add to your article structured markup that will uniquely identify the author of the article. This link can be to the author’s social media page, an ‘about me’ page, a biography page or some other page that will identify the author.
You’re probably wondering why this is important for SEO… Many authors write across multiple websites. By giving the search engine a way to identify that the same author wrote articles on site A and on site B can help Google better understand the author’s online footprint. It might be used for the new article carousel in the author knowledge panels and for broader reasons at Google.
If your site publishes articles, it might benefit your online visibility to add this new property to your article structured data. At this stage, we are unsure whether Google will use it more broadly than just in the author knowledge panels, and use it to try to understand the expertise of a specific author across multiple sites. There is a chance that this will help your site rank better in the long term
So that concludes this month’s organic search update for this month. It’s a bit of a shorter one this month, but that’s definitely a good thing as far as we’re concerned. There are fewer pesky updates for you to worry about, so hopefully we can catch our breath from the update-filled summer we have had. See you next month, and in the meantime, happy SEO-ing!
If you have any SEO related questions, or any concerns about your rankings, do not hesitate to get in touch.