July 2021 SEO News Recap

Carolyn Wilborn SEO Content Author

Google Releases the July 2021 Core Algorithm Update

Google warned us that the June core algorithm update was only the first of a two-part update, and we saw part 2 hit hard and fast on July 1.

As with all algo updates, we don’t know exactly what was included, but it is likely that Google is incorporating more relevance and quality signals. However, with the high number of overlapping updates over the past few weeks, it’s a challenge to know which change made what impact.

Recent updates and dates:

*The Page Experience update is not complete but is expected to continue through the end of August. There have also been rumblings of at least one unconfirmed update at the end of June, shortly before the July core update.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable followed the updates here and here.

Google Suggests a Site’s Appearance Can Impact Rankings

Need another reason to consider a replatform or redesign? Google’s John Mueller said in a recent Search Central SEO Hangout that a general decline in site traffic may indicate there’s an issue with the website’s quality.

An old theme or outdated template could be holding your site back in search rankings.

Not sure if your site feels “old” or “outdated”? John suggests seeking opinions from unbiased sources to find out. He also recommends making sure your site’s content is free of typos, is well written, is not mass-produced, doesn’t have an excessive number of ads, and displays well on mobile devices.

Lastly, he reminds us that these kinds of updates are unlikely to see month-over-month performance changes. Like SEO as a whole, these updates can take a long time to be reflected in search results.

Read more of John’s comments at Search Engine Journal.

Shopify Sites Can Now Edit Their Robots.txt File

Good news for sites on the Shopify ecommerce platform! Shopify users can now edit their site’s robots.txt file. This gives retailers an additional degree of control over their SEO efforts with the ability to customize the signals they are sending to Google and other search engines.

The robots.txt file is a text file that contains instructions for search engines and other bots. Shopify store owners will now be able to allow or disallow specific URLs from being crawled, block certain crawlers, institute crawl delays for individual crawlers, or add the URL of an additional XML sitemap.

Shopify recommends editing the robots.txt file through the robots.txt.liquid theme template.

Shopify cautions that “incorrect use of the feature can result in loss of all traffic.”

That is true for the robots.txt file on any site, so if you have questions make sure you reach out to your SEO team before editing your robots.txt file. If you don’t already work with ROI’s SEO team, reach out here to see how we can help.

Learn more about this change at Search Engine Journal.

Google: Quality Changes Take Several Months to Be Reprocessed & Reevaluated

In related news, Google’s John Mueller recently stated that it can take several months for changes made to a site to be reprocessed, reevaluated, and reflected in SERPs. While algorithm updates often affect sites quickly, recovering from the negative effects of one can require lots of patience (and time).

See the tweet and read more at Search Engine Roundtable.

How MUM Improved Google Searches for Vaccine Information

Depending on where you live, you may refer to different things by different names. Did you grow up saying soda, coke, or pop? What do you use now? Google has been aware of these different terminologies for years, but had a harder time surfacing relevant, timely information when different words were used – until recently.

Thanks to a new tool called MUM (Multitask Unified Model), Google’s been able to identify over 800 names for the COVID-19 vaccine around the world and serve time-sensitive, trustworthy information to all searchers, regardless of the query they use. Google is looking forward to testing MUM in new applications and creating a more robust, user-friendly search experience with it.

Read more on how Google used MUM to improve vaccine searches on Google’s blog.

In related news, Search Engine Land interviewed Pandu Nayak, VP of Search at Google, and discussed how MUM may change the way searchers interact with the search engine. He outlines Google’s plans for the short, medium, and long term, as well as what they don’t expect MUM to become. Read the full conversation at Search Engine Land.

For more news related to COVID-19, visit our How Coronavirus Is Impacting Ecommerce blog post.

Learn How to Improve Your Content with Search Console Insights

Data from Google Analytics and Search Console have merged to create Search Console Insights with the goal of making it easier to understand your content’s performance. Trending and best-performing content including how people discover your brand’s content and what they search for to help them find your resources can be analyzed for additional insights.

You can use Search Console Insights even if you don’t use Google Analytics, but for the best insights, simply link your Analytics property with your Search Console property.

Learn more on the Google Developer Blog.

Google on Redirects

Sites change over time, and the need to redirect older pages to new ones is very common. Redirects are also critical in all of the following situations:

  • You’re replatforming your site and are changing the URL structure
  • You’re moving your site to a new domain
  • You’re consolidating websites, merging two (or more) into one

But how redirects affect your site in Google Search hasn’t always been very clear.

In late June, Google updated and expanded their help page on redirects to explain the different types of redirects and how to implement them in the most effective way for your site.

The help document states that “…Google Search uses redirects as a strong or weak signal that the redirect target should be canonical.”

In other words, adding a redirect is a signal to Google that the “new” page (the one being redirected to) is the one that should be appearing in the search results.

Read more at Search Engine Land and see the help doc on Google’s Developer Blog here.

In more recent news, Gary Illyes of Google answered a common question on Twitter, giving a “concrete answer” on how long redirects should stay in place: at least one year. And once the 301 redirect has consolidated all signals to the new page, those signals will remain, even if the redirect is removed.

Learn more details at Search Engine Roundtable.

Find All Google Search Content Policies in One Location

Do you have questions about Google’s search content or search feature policies? Now, Google has combined them all in one location: Content policies for Google Search.

Here, you’ll find policies that apply to content anywhere in Google Search, policies that apply to search features, and policies that are feature-specific for things like dictionary boxes, Google News, and knowledge panels.

Click the link above to visit the policies page or visit Search Engine Roundtable to see a general breakdown of what’s included.

Google My Business: Performance Report Updates & Business Offers

Google My Business is slowly rolling out new metrics into performance reports, including driving direction requests and website visits – important data for local businesses to use when learning how a local customer discovers a business.

Google has also made it easier to update what your brand offers right from Google Search as long as you’re logged into the Google account associated with your business. You can quickly update service areas and images, and even enable online bookings through your Business Profile – all by simply searching for your business name.

Learn more on Google’s Developer Blog and Search Engine Land.

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