To say that 2021 was a busy year for search is an understatement. From major core updates to more minor algorithmic tweaks, Google Search was churning out system changes month after month that threw some marketers for a loop. Following major rollouts, some managed to regain their lost rankings, but others saw their pages continue to tumble down the search engine results page (SERPs).
But all is not lost. While some of us have taken a hit, 2021 has been one big teachable moment for SEOs everywhere, and there’s certainly still time to grow and recover.
Considering the year we’ve had, let’s look at what we should focus on from here on in and what will be important for our SEO strategy in 2022 and beyond.
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Focusing on Page Speed To Enhance User Experience
Before Google started rolling out the Page Experience algorithm in June last year, it was the start of a slow and arduous process that wouldn’t culminate until September. But since then, this algorithm update, together with the three Core Web Vitals, has become the backbone of good page experience.
We know that the Page Experience Algorithm will be available on desktop in February 2022 and that Google is developing a new responsiveness metric that could replace First Input Delay (FID). It’s safe to assume that the search engine giant will continue to prioritize user experience (UX) and reward pages providing fast-loading web pages that don’t cause visitors to bounce off the site.
Naturally, for you, this means following best practices to ensure you stay compliant with Google’s load time expectations (under 2.5 seconds), as well as your visitors’.
Focusing on Search Intent When Doing Keyword Research
Search intent has always influenced the way do keyword research, but it’s never been as crucial as it is now. In case you missed it, Google launched Multitask Unified Model (MUM) in May 2021 as part of its initiative to satisfy search intent and answer complex queries.
This update is not only revolutionary, but it also underpins the importance of focusing on search intent, as opposed to search volume, when choosing the right keywords.
We can break down search intent into four main categories: informational, commercial, navigational and transactional. We can tell someone’s search intent by the terms they use in their queries. So, words like “buy” and “discount” would be transactional, and terms like “why” or “what” would be informational. It also works the other way around – we can formulate intent-specific keywords to increase our chances of being found by people with corresponding search intent.
One way SEOs can respond to Google’s shifting priorities is to move away from search volume and optimize landing pages accordingly – that is, aligned with user intent. So, if your visitors are looking for information, you don’t want to show them your product page. In the same vein, you don’t want to aim an informational article at visitors who are ready to buy.
Focusing on In-Depth Content for Product Reviews
If you’re offering product review content, this one’s for you. We saw two product review updates in 2021, one in April and another in December. Both updates are concerned with content written around products and making sure Google promotes only the most useful, insightful product reviews in the search results.
That means no more thin, templated content “that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” Here’s what Google recommends you do instead:
Provide visuals and audio in your product reviews to reinforce your credibility and the reviews’ authenticity
Add links to multiple sellers, instead of just one, to give readers the option to buy from their provider of choice
Ultimately, both updates aim to reward in-depth product reviews and give readers the most helpful product content on the web.
All the updates we’ve outlined so far have a common denominator. At their core is Google’s relentless push for more valuable, higher-quality search results for its users. As marketers, we must put in the effort to align our strategies with shifting expectations and best practices to keep seeing results from our campaigns. Not just now, not just in 2022, but also in the years ahead.
That said, we hope the new year proves fruitful and brings success to all your SEO projects. Keep optimizing!
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More SEO News You Can Use
December 2021 Could Be the Most Volatile Month in Google History: Remember when we said 2021 was a busy year for SEO? Turns out it was the craziest, too. According to Semrush findings, December marked the most volatile month in terms of ranking fluctuations and changes, thanks to the multiple core updates and product review updates that happened throughout 2021. Semrush also hinted that December 2021 could be the most volatile time for Google ever. What an exciting month to cap off an already exciting year!
Survey Reveals SEOs Are Not Prioritizing Link Building: A Twitter survey by SEO consultant Barry Schwartz shows that most SEOs are investing little time in link-building efforts. His Twitter poll, which garnered over 1,800 votes, revealed that 58.1 percent of respondents spend under 25 percent of their time doing link-building tasks. Only 9.2 percent said that over 75 percent of their time is dedicated to link building. Quite an interesting turnout considering that link building is still considered a vital aspect of the whitehat SEO methodology. Thoughts? You can join the discussion here.
Survey Shows SEOs Took Time Off Over the Holidays: Despite December being an upheaval of sorts, Google recommended not working over the holiday break. And it seems a lot of SEOs took heed. Based on another Twitter poll by Schwartz, who posed the question: “Did you work over the Christmas holiday?” 47 percent out of 513 responses said, “No – not at all,” 20 percent said, “Yes – a lot” and 33 percent said, “Yes – a little.” Though Schwartz did point out that the poll was “unscientific” and “not statistically sound,” considering a lot of SEOs were off for the holidays and therefore were not present to answer the poll.
Google Now Lets You Exclude Undesirable Ad Placements: There is now an “Exclude Placements” feature in the Google Ads interface, allowing you to exclude not-so-ideal ad placements for your Smart Shopping campaigns. This new feature could be incredibly useful for brands that want to control what their ads appear next to and avoid any unwelcome brand associations. There has been no word from Google on the update. But we’re hoping it will stay available by the time Smart Shopping and Local campaigns are rolled into Performance Max campaigns sometime this year.
Google Is Testing Out an Announcement Tab on the Search Console: Last week, Schwartz spotted a new announcement tab at the top of the Google Search Console interface, though it didn’t seem to be fully functional yet (nothing happened when he clicked on it). The announcement bar has three types of announcements, depending on the severity: informational announcement, minor issue announcement and major issue announcement. Google’s John Mueller has since clarified that the feature is “a test on our side… that shouldn’t have been visible externally.” In any case, Schwartz believes Google will use the announcement bar to communicate Google Search issues directly to site owners. Guess we’ll have to wait until the feature goes live.
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