Google Algorithm Updates - 2021 Ongoing Discussion

Ryuzaki

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...Continued from our Google Algorithm Updates - 2020 Ongoing Discussion

Looks like no time is being wasted this year. The December Core Update started on the 3rd and finished up on the 16th followed nearly immediately by huge corrections until around December 20th.

We had peace and quiet for just over two weeks. But the word on the volatility charts is that things are shaking up again:

Possible Update: January 7th & 8th




This one caught me by surprise so I haven't noticed anything (nor seen an impact to my traffic outside or normal variations as of this morning). Anyone affected? To cause a spike this large I can't imagine it's too niche dependent.
 
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I had a negative experience with the core update.

I had great positive movement yesterday.

All I did was add links.
 

bernard

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I felt the tremors a little bit, but it only affected lower rankings, not first page rankings, so not sure what the outcome will be.
 

Ryuzaki

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Possible Update: February 9th

I'm just reporting the word on the street for this one because if there was an update as reflected by the weather reports below, I went unaffected. Could be niche dependent, who knows. Any insight from you guys?



 

bernard

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Yes, I noticed during the last couple of days some minor movements here and there, but more than normal. Positive only it seems for now.
 

Ryuzaki

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Confirmed Update: February 10th

Passage Ranking is Live in the US Index!



“Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right,” said Google, “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.”

This will affect 7% of search queries across all languages once it rolls out globally.

As someone now focused on CPM ads and getting users to start at the top and keep scrolling, I'm going to stop them from "jump linking" down to the middle of my articles. I shared the means to do that in the thread below:

Google's Scroll to Text Fragments - Ramifications & Disabling

Google has confirmed it won't hurt your site (for now, I'm assuming) if you do this.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: February 17th

I'm definitely seeing this one. Slight traffic boost on one site, lost about 500 visits a day on another doing around 10k a day. It's not landing just today, it's been creeping the past week. RankRanger spots that well, then the next two see more impact today:

RankRanger


SEMRush


SERPWoo


I've got no insight on what's happening. It hasn't impacted me enough to cause me to dig. Steady forward is the course of action.

Anyone noticing anything on their side?
 
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Noticing decent movement, especially on my new pages.
Both are new pages and they jumped up nicely today.




0 links, as I wanted to see where they land. I don't think this update has anything to do with links.
 

Boy

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IDK who in my industry is losing, but it ain't me.

 

Ryuzaki

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Potential Update: March 3rd

There's always small updates going frequently enough that it's hard to know which ones to mention. SEMRush and Moz picked up quite a bit of volatility yesterday that the other players didn't really see as out of the ordinary:

SEMRush


Moz


You can see that since the February 17th update, there's been a couple other micro updates, like around the 22nd and 27th of February, which were about the same size as this March 3rd one.

I don't know what it might have affected. I just like to catalogue a paper trail so later when we need a reference we can always look in this thread and correlate all this to our analytics. "Oh, yep, there was some kind of update on 3/3/21, makes sense now."
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: March 10th (December related & Local update)








I didn't mention this one because... well, look at all the little spikes every week. I didn't want to mention every little spike because many end up having little appreciable effect. But the one on March 10th caused enough grumblings that it's worth putting here for future reference.

It's looking like this "smaller" update may have tweaked some of the same things in the big December core update or it involved data refreshes. People are talking about 60%-70% increases and decreases across entire sites.

What makes it confusing is they also mixed in what seems to be a big local update:



I wasn't personally effected by any of this so I don't have any intimate insight into what it affected, but I've heard from some others personally and seen a lot of chatter online about it, so I had to solidify it here in our update thread.

If anyone can share anything, please do!
 

bernard

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Yes, I agree this was related/data update of December update, but as you mentioned, it seemed to have been going on for a while, beginning in February.

Incidentally, here is the main keyword I'm targetting on my December hit site:



It might look like just a new site bouncing, but it isn't, it was the December update. I'm back to November rankings, which is where I should have been the entire time.

The other pages haven't moved much.

What's the difference?

I added some more content to the roundup review page. For this site, I actually wanted to try to be even more specific with my intent, but I think it hurt the site, with only very easy to identify commercial content.

I also built a bunch of links.

I am not sure if it is a link effect, and otherwise I would have been higher, or the added links have provided some trust to the page. I imagine, it is probably a combination.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: April 8th, 2021
Product Reviews Update

Google has released a Product Reviews Update today that is seeking to up-rank good affiliate content and down-rank bad affiliate content. Here's the guidance they provide, in their own words, from the link above:

Do your reviews:
  • Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
  • Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  • Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product's category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?
They've said this is not a core update (obviously, it targets one type of content).

The update is currently live as of the time of me posting this:


MozCast


SERPWoo
Good luck out there, affiliate bros.
 

bernard

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Well, that is certainly interesting.

Honestly, this update could and should hit like 80% of all product reviews, but it probably won't.

I'll look forward to this for a few select product reviews, where I know for sure I am market leading and the competition has no expert knowledge and never tested the products.

We'll see if they manage to hit the target with this one or if it ends up being a poorly implemented "Wirecutter good, small affiliate bad" update based on various authority metrics.
 
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A thin content/strong backlink competitor that came out of the December update on top of me is obliterated.
I am 10% down across the board (mostly unique reviews with some thin ones mixed in).
 

bernard

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First results seem like a definite positive boost for me.

The pages I talked about, that were legit high quality, jumped from low first page into top 3.

I also had a big jump for a few keywords that were hit in the Dec 6 update, though not sitewide.
 
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My site has been hit hard by this update! Traffic is down by about 70% compared to last week - not to mention, the traffic I've lost was a lot more valuable than the traffic I've kept.

Anyone seeing any patterns here? I've been looking at who's winning in my niche but unfortunately I don't have too many competitors to reverse engineer - in quite a few SERPs Reddit and YouTube have over taken me.

I had assumed this update would be a page-level algorithm change, i.e. pages that met Google's criteria for product reviews would perform better, and vice versa. But when I look at some of the keywords I have lost - and one particular competitor has won - I'm not my sure my content meets Google's criteria any less than theirs.

What I have done is count all of the posts on my competitors' websites. They're running more than 50% info content. My balance was more like 75% money - and I will admit some of it was quite thin - and 25% info. I wonder whether I have been penalized at a site level for this - I know @Ryuzaki draws attention to content balance in the Kitchen Sink method.

Yesterday I deleted 60 money posts from my website that were receiving less than 10 visitors a month. Most of them were outside my focus niche, in "shoulder niches", so they were probably hurting my topical relevance too. I hope I can republish them at a later date - just with a little more finesse, topical relevance, and info content to balance it out.

I'm left with 64% money and 36% info - so I'm thinking I'll order a bunch of info posts to get that to a 50:50 balance. Then I want to go through the money content I have lost out the most on this update, and have it rewritten to sound more "hands-on" - coming back to improvements on the page level.

Other than that, I have a few outstanding items in the Kitchen Sink method I will be implementing. I must admit, I sometimes dislike the open-endedness of SEO. Like, with making sure your site has no JS errors or 404 pages, it's pretty concrete and finite. But where do I draw the line with interlinking? With adding HTML tags (tables, lists, images, etc) to posts?
 
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Couple of my sites hit hard, one lost over 90% of traffic. Seems to be sitewide, rather than addressing content of specific pages. Only pattern I notice is bofu./tofu ratio of sites that are still performing well in my niches is better.
 

Ryuzaki

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@tomer and @Elon Tusk, this is purely speculative but something to think about:

For a while Google had a "thin content penalty" to get rid of low quality sites that do crap like copy and paste, publish 100 word doorway pages, crappy database sites with a million crappy pages, people doing the old Farmer Update stuff where they'd publish for every keyword variation, etc. Farmer became Thin Content and this became Panda ultimately.

At that point I noticed and described the thin content penalty as being misused to attack affiliate sites that had waaaay too much bottom of the funnel content and nothing else. These sites are self serving, don't tend to help the user at all, and just siphon money out of transactions (not that the vendors cared, they got the sales).

I thought that version of the Thin Content penalty found it's home with the Fred Update and would be rolled up with it from here out. Maybe it was. But now we have this Product Reviews update which is likely another offline filter where data is collected and crunched and rolled back out 2 or 3 times a year.

It's possible the Thin Content (for affiliates) penalty got rolled up with this Product Reviews thing as a package, or possibly both the Thin Content and the Fred stuff.

It has always been a possibility, for at least 10 years, that BoFu-only sites can get creamed. You'll see survivors out there, but is it always the same survivors?

Having a BoFu/MoFu/ToFu balance as Elon called it not only keeps you safer but gives you more chances for SERP exposure, link acquisition, relevancy and page rank pushing through interlinking, and gaining topical authority.

It's not like "well dang, now I have to publish higher up the funnel...". You should WANT to, because the reward is very high, especially if you monetize that content appropriately too. I actually find it so lucrative that I don't even care about BoFu too much any more.

Like, with making sure your site has no JS errors or 404 pages, it's pretty concrete and finite.
The number of 404 pages Google has discovered on your site doesn't matter one single bit. You actually only ever have one 404 page and it gets shown when people (or you) display URLs that aren't legit. You can't control what other people do, and Google knows this, and them seeing a 404 in those cases is a good thing. 404 is fine.
 

bernard

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Yeah, this seems so much like the old -20, -30, -60 penalties that preceded Panda.

The one site I had that got hit Dec 6, literally seems to have a -20 penalty, in which none of those pages from before that can rank above top 20.

I think my site got penalized because it used to be parked with a lot of doorway pages, that didn't leave the index until after Dec 6.

It didn't help that I only published feed pages and a few roundup review type pages.

I'm going to suck it up and invest a grand or so in good non-commercial content.