Google Releases November Core Algorithm Update

Google announced the release of the November core algorithm update on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Like most algo updates, there is no specific information about what this release focuses on or what impact it may have.

SEOs and webmasters have argued that releasing an update just before the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday/Cyber Week sales period is potentially very damaging to business who may experience increased volatility and performance declines linked to the update, but Google’s Danny Sullivan responded by tweeting:

“…core updates make no huge change for most. People shouldn’t be panicking…”

This update is expected to take about two weeks to completely roll out, so it’s best not to make any radical changes based on limited data. If you’re working with ROI Revolution’s SEO Team, we’re closely monitoring performance and keyword rankings for all our clients.

Need help with SEO? Reach out to schedule a competitive analysis.

Semrush Reports Increase in Search Volatility

Whether you’re an SEO expert or simply trying to run an online business, you’ve probably noticed more frequent changes in the search engine results page (SERP) over the past year. Between multiple core algorithm updates, the Page Experience update, several spam updates, and other unannounced changes, it feels like organic listings are in a constant state of flux.

According to recent research from online marketing tool company Semrush, you’re right. Mordy Oberstein, Head of Communications at Semrush, tweeted in mid-October that the company’s data showed that the number of days with rank volatility on both desktop and mobile increased significantly in 2021 compared to last year.

On desktop, the number increased from 26.46% to 44.58%, while on mobile, they went from 27.23% to 49.99%. The number of very high volatility days also increased.

Read the full Twitter thread to see the methodology and more details on how the numbers can be broken out by volatility levels and more.

Page Experience Ranking Coming to Desktop

Google announced the same page experience signals that impact mobile ranking now (Core Web Vitals, HTTPS Security, and the lack of intrusive interstitials) will also impact desktop ranking beginning in February 2022.

Page experience signals have been used in their mobile ranking system since the Page Experience Update that rolled out between June and August of 2021; however, desktop ranking was not impacted by this previous update. While Google moved all sites to mobile-first indexing in March 2021, the ranking between mobile and desktop is still handled separately.

Google’s Continuous Scroll Does Not Impact Reporting; Impressions and CTR May Be Impacted

In mid-October 2021, Google rolled out continuous scroll on mobile SERPs, meaning the “More Results” button at the end of each page has been eliminated and the next 10 results load automatically.

Google has confirmed that position is still position, and how position is reported will not change in Search Console. However, the functionality makes it seamless for a user to view results on what used to be page 2 once they get to the bottom of the mobile SERP.

Impressions will likely increase for pages in positions 11-20 without an increase in clicks, causing click-through-rate to decrease.

Google: Buttons and Links Are Not the Same

Google’s John Mueller recently confirmed on Twitter that buttons are not crawled or treated as links. He said:

“Buttons aren’t links and don’t inherently have URLs attached to actions, so we wouldn’t use them for crawling or otherwise.”

For a link in a button to be crawlable, it must contain an < a href >. Therefore, if you use JavaScript buttons (or links) on your site, always make sure there is an < a href > associated with them, so search engine bots will be able to crawl deeper into your site.

Google on Separating Information by Search Intent

Search intent has become an increasingly important concept in the past few years when thinking about keywords and content. Fundamentally, Google wants people to keep using their search engine, and providing search results that satisfy a user’s query is one of the keys to keeping them coming back.

In other words, Google wants to get better at understanding what you really want when you search for something. If you search for “pizza,” what result will satisfy you: Where to go to buy pizza? How to make pizza? The history of pizza? Reviews of the best frozen pizza? What is your intent?

In a recent video hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about mixing search intent: If a site has some pages that are transactional and some that are informational, will that confuse Google about the intent of the site? If I have a business that sells pizza but also have a great blog full of information about the history of pizza, will Google think that my site is focused on the blog rather than selling a product?

John noted that many sites have a combination of different content types, and that Google is more focused at the page level rather than at a site level. Having pages that focus on different intents is pretty common, but individual pages should have one primary intent. It’s best not to mix content with different goals on the same page.

Content Quality and How Google Understands What a Page Is About

When we think about content quality, we often focus on the text itself. Is it well written and does it answer what the searcher wants to know? But Google’s John Mueller recently commented that content quality also includes the images on the page, the speed of the page, the layout, and other technical elements.

This corresponds to the search engine’s recent focus on page experience, which includes core web vitals, mobile friendliness, and the absence of intrusive interstitials. Having a great page experience won’t help you rank well if the actual words on the page aren’t useful and relevant to a search, however.

So how does Google understand what the page is really about – particularly when the text is surrounded by other elements, like navigation, ads or promotions, header and footer text, and more?

According to Google’s Martin Splitt, the search engine uses a concept called Centerpiece Annotation to separate the main content on the page from the page boilerplate and other components. Each part of the page is weighted differently depending on how central it is to the primary purpose of the page. This includes off-topic content, which might not be given as much consideration if Google determines that it’s not relevant to the centerpiece content.

This information is particularly useful when combined with John Mueller’s comments on search intent. A high-quality page should be focused on one main topic, have one clear intent, and be designed to provide a great user experience.

Google Updated Search Quality Rater Guidelines in October 2021

Five changes were made to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines focusing on expanding the definition of the ‘groups of people’ in the Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) subcategory, how reviews are evidence of reputation online, its definition of lowest quality content, and multiple changes geared towards clarity.

Many of these updates reiterate and expand upon the importance of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) in YMYL content while working towards conscious inclusion of identities previously not stated, such as gender expression, caste, immigration status, sex, gender, victims of a major violent event and their kin, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalizing.

Additionally, Google updated the guidance to include that “a large number of detailed, trustworthy positive reviews” help users understand a store’s reputation. Previously, Google included only that a “large number of positive” reviews will be evidence of a good reputation online.

Lastly, Google reworked the “lowest page quality” section by providing specific examples on how they determine if a page is causing harm, misinforming users, or spreading hate. Examples include websites that publish private information about an individual, contain unsubstantiated theories, contain offensive stereotypes, and more.

Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines are not direct ranking factors themselves, but do provide context on how Google is determining how to rank pages and how they look at websites.

The Benefits of Adding Author Names to Articles

With the introduction of the concept of E-A-T and its importance to site and content quality, we’ve seen more and more conversations about attributing content to a specific author – particularly in cases where the content is related to health or financial topics. Having a doctor write or review a health article, for example, can give the piece more authority.

But how important is how “known” that writer is, and what if the content doesn’t need a medical or financial expert to make it trustworthy?

In a late September Google hangout, John Mueller said that the specific author on a piece of content is not a direct ranking factor. In other words, having a famous doctor write your content does not make it better than having a not-so famous doctor write it. The value is in making sure that, particularly for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics, the person whose name is associated with the content is an expert.

But what if the content isn’t related to a YMYL topic? Do you need a name on a general interest article or is using “Admin” or something similar good enough? In an October video hangout, John said that using “Admin” seems too generic, but there’s no real need for any author name in this type of case. If you’re using structured data that includes author information, you should have a name there, but if not, how you handle it is really up to you.

Get Maximum Exposure for Videos Using a Dedicated Page

If you want to make sure that a video can be found by Google and that features like key moments and other rich results can be shown, that video should have its own dedicated page where it’s the main subject of the page.

This is according to updated guidelines on video from Google. As outlined in an article from Search Engine Land and in the guidelines, it’s okay to put that video on multiple pages, but the dedicated page is the most direct way to help the video perform well in search. And remember that Google needs context around a video – including a title of the video, a description, and even a transcript on that dedicated page can help Google better understand what the video is about and help it rank better.

Local SEO and Connecting With Holiday Shoppers

Our quick round-up of local SEO stories includes a name change for GMB and advice on connecting with local holiday shoppers.

Beginning with the name change, “Google My Business now known as Google Business Profile as Google migrates features to Maps and Search” from Search Engine Land discusses what else is changing aside from the name and what new features are being introduced. You can read more directly from Google in the article, “Foster meaningful conversations with customers on Google.”

Google is also encouraging local businesses to use their Business Profile and maps to help shoppers find them in “Connect with local holiday shoppers.” This article also talks about providing information on local inventory and business locations.