You may not realize that the Google algorithm is what determines which information is presented back to a user when they search on the web. Google is always looking at whether the information they serve back to that user is the best it can be. That’s why it is important to consider the algorithm and how it works when you are creating content for your website.
Why Google Algorithm Changes Matter to You
Google first set up an algorithm back in 1996 to assist them, behind the scenes, to rank information coming back as part of a user’s internet search. Naturally back in those days the amount of information available on the world wide web was a lot less than it is today.
As we explained in the last article “How to Use Backlinks and Canonical Tags to Increase Site Traffic,” all content isn’t created equal. There are a large number of scam websites set up that do not add value for those looking for information. 1.4 Million per day to be exact.
That meant that Google needed a way to rank sites based on the quality of information they provide to users, hence the introduction of the algorithm and the subsequent changes to it that have occurred since 1996.
Each time Google makes changes to its algorithm it may impact your website ranking in some way. For example, the ‘Cassandra’ update in 2003 (each non-core update is given a code name) looked at backlink quality and “cracked down on massive linking from co-owned domains.”
Each algorithm change means that your website, which a few years ago was ranked on the first page of Google, could now be showing up on page three or four because it is no longer ranked as highly.
What the Experts Are Saying Is Key for 2021
After having seen algorithm changes happening each year, some experts have looked and in a way predicted the key things being targeted from an SEO and ranking viewpoint for 2021.
Here are the key things they are considering important:
User Intent Is Critical
One thing that Neil Patel says is that “search engines are built to serve people.” That is why Google is continually updating the algorithm to ensure that any search response it delivers best matches what people are looking for on the web.
That is why at the top of the list of things to consider when you create any content is “Does my content meet the needs of a group of people, or even better, a specific person?” Google doesn’t want to provide a response that is simply selling that user a product or requesting their information. They want users to obtain a quality answer in a fast and easy-to-maneuver way.
Jason Barnard, The Brand SERP guy, says that “in 2021, the reality of entity-based search starts with Google’s confident understanding of who you are, what you offer, and what audience you serve.” In a way, it is all about Google trusting that you are who you say you are based on what they see from your content. If they trust what they see, you gain a higher ranking.
User Experience Is Primary
How your page content makes a user feel is also something to consider. If a potential site visitor is frustrated because the page isn’t showing up correctly, that doesn’t add bonus points from Google.
You probably already know that one of the changes that Google made some time ago related to whether a website was mobile-friendly. This is still an important consideration and fits strongly with giving the internet users the best possible experience.
Notice that most of these things that we have already touched on are all about the end-user and their experience of interacting with your website and its content. That is why it is important to constantly be monitoring the changes that Google makes to its algorithm. You want to continue to deliver quality content that is going to improve your site ranking as much as possible.
The Impact of Earlier Algorithm Changes
Let’s go and visit the impact that earlier algorithm changes may have had on your website and page rankings.
December 2020 saw a core update implemented. These core updates, usually two per year, tweak the main Google algorithm. That core algorithm contains between 200 to 500 different ranking factors–none of which are detailed by Google. You can imagine how a change to even one or two of these would change the way any ranking is carried out.
Google doesn’t ever explain exactly what has been changed to the core algorithm as that is giving away their trade secret, if you want to call it that. Just know that any core change does have an impact on the way your page ranking occurs.
Ryan Jones from Search Engine Journal used a made-up example to explain it this way:
“In this core update, we increased the value of keywords in H1 tags by 2%, increased the value of HTTPS by 18%, decreased the value of the keyword in title tag by 9%, changed the D value in our PageRank calculation from .85 to .70, and started using a TF-iDUF retrieval method for logged in users instead of the traditional TF-PDF method.”
Clear as mud, right?
Google had also implemented an earlier core algorithm update in May 2020. This, like all other core updates, was not described in specific details, so unfortunately there is no way to know WHAT was impacted at that time.
The January 22 update stopped “webpages in a featured snippet position from being repeated in regular Page 1 organic listing.”
Bottom line, it is worthwhile to keep an eye out for the details of any Google algorithm changes that are implemented as they will most likely impact your website and page rankings, even in a minor way.
How the Latest Change Impacts You
In February 2021, a confirmed change was made that impacted passage rankings. What is passage ranking? Passage ranking is Google’s way of looking at a long web page and splitting it into individual passages of text. Rather than ranking the entire page of content, that same content will now be ranked as a passage within the page. You don’t need to make any changes; just note that if your page rank changed, it may have been due to this indexing change.
Here are three websites that provide you with information on each algorithm change and whether that change has been confirmed by Google. Each site details the impact of the change to make it easier for you to understand.