Trends

December 2021 SEO Trends

December 31, 2021
Read time:
7 minutes
Momentic "M" mark

SEO News Roundup #3

December 2021’s biggest SEO topics include: businesses who follow Google’s E-A-T guidelines to a T are the businesses coming out on top, local SEO need-to-know—AMP URLs are no longer needed to show up in Google’s news feed, and lastly, Google’s second product review update of the year will be fully rolled out before Christmas.

For B2B Keyword Research, Target the Decision Maker not Person Using the Product or Service

It sounds pretty self explanatory, but for B2B SEO, search behavior is more niche and typically has much lower search volumes than B2C keywords.

Best practice – just because a keyword has low search volume, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to drive revenue. Specified search intent means qualified leads and qualified leads mean larger revenue potential. This is true across B2B and B2C industries.

Practice People-First SEO Via Google’s E-A-T Guidelines

When building an annual organic search plan, evaluating impact versus effort across all tasks or projects is one of the most important things to do. You can do this by asking two big questions:

1️⃣ How much easier does this website change make it easier for a target audience to find what they’re looking for?

2️⃣ If for whatever reason, Google deprioritized the importance of the signals made as they relate to this task, how would that affect site performance and a user’s search experience?

Part of this evaluation process should involve taking into account Google’s E-A-T—which is not an algorithm on its own, nor is it a ranking factor, but with algorithm changes should always be used as a benchmark when forecasting SEO task effectiveness:

Expertise: SMEs (subject matter experts) are providing accurate research with original research that’s considered the pinnacle for the industry. Clear understanding and mastery, unique content.

Authoritativeness: SMEs carry weight in their industry, are quoted throughout the site regularly (this can be programmatic), and have thoughtfully presented credentials in the form of author bios

Trustworthiness: SMEs have high accreditation and are providing information that’s in the best interest of the users.

Best practice – In addition to this, gauge E-A-T through branded search—good E-A-T practice will typically show high brand equity, interest and other websites will reference your site’s content more through higher backlinking.

Bottom line – Since eCommerce touches virtually almost every industry, focusing on E-A-T should not replace technical SEO initiatives that improve the overall crawlability and indexability of a site, but will remain a gold standard for helping to fulfill user needs on YMYL (your money your life) websites specifically.

When Migrating a Website, Keep 301 Redirects in Place for One Year or More Depending

Per Google, since a site move is a permanent one, it’s appropriate to use 301 redirects when directing from old domain pages to new domain pages. Taking this one step further, John Mueller says that because Google recrawls and reprocesses pages every three months, when a URL status code changes (to a 301 for example), Google needs to see that change at least a few times in order to record and remember that change permanently in its knowledge base.

Bottom line – In the case of moving a website for the sake of a redesign, it’s okay to keep 301 redirects in place for longer than a year, just nothing less than that. In fact, Momentic recommends keeping 301’s in place longer than a year, (up to five years actually) to ensure bookmarked pages in user’s browsers are still easily accessible and necessary backlinks are kept up to date.

Google’s November 2021 Core Update Continues to See Fluctuation

Preliminary Semrush data shows minimal SERP volatility after the first 24 hours of the rollout, but hit hard before that—with the November core update being 12% more volatile on desktop than the July core update and 26% on mobile.

Best practice – For any core update that negatively impacts a site, always take a 30,000 foot view to identify opportunities for improvement and when in doubt, use Google’s guidelines when reassessing content.

Bottom line – Ultimately the fluctuation across industries mirrors a similar pattern to the July rollout with many drops in performance seeing immediate bounce-back with the first day.

Google’s December 2021 Product Reviews Update Will Finalize It’s Rollout Before Christmas

The second of Google’s two product review algorithm changes started to officially roll out on December 1st, 2021, with the first being rolled out earlier this year in April 2021.

Unlike April’s rollout concentrating on review breadth (meaning authentically written reviews are better than five stars) , December’s product review update emphasizes product review that share in-depth research written by experts (or enthusiasts) who are well versed in the topic.

Best practices include:
1️⃣ In product reviews, provide multimedia evidence such as visuals, audio or other links that showcase authentic, personal experiences with the product in order to further expertise about the product.

2️⃣ Include links to other distributors or sellers to provide the user with transparent alternative channels for purchase.

3️⃣ For future product reviews, avoid thin content written by reviewers who’s qualifications aren’t known to the user.

Bottom line – Google continues to show its value for SME written content, but in the case of product reviews, won’t necessarily punish reviews that are lower quality.

AMP URLs are No Longer a Prerequisite to be in Google’s News Feed

Although rolled out a couple of months ago in September 2021, Google’s recent change around now allowing AMP and non-AMP pages appearing in the Google News feed aka the Top stories carousel is now starting to take hold.

Bottom line – the previous AMP requirement for entry to the Google News feed posed as a barrier for businesses who didn’t have the technical wherewithal to develop them in the first place. Now, the playing field is more leveled for companies to compete for time-sensitive, local query rankings.

In 2022, Echoes of 2021 Consumer Search Habits Will Still Be Relevant

[Available near me] searches increased 100% in 2021, [now near me] searches by 200% in 2021, and [along my route] searches 1000% in 2020. Search Engine Journal’s 2021 local SEO round-up of must-know trends highlights the below takeaways that summed up this study:

✔️ Google My Business is now called Google Business Profile and allows users to access the listing directly from the SERPs.

✔️ Google continues to advance more enriched user experiences for {news near me} queries by encouraging journalists and press people to get granular with local data and information for their stories. Rich results that accompany the news near me query are: Local news carousel, top stories carousel, more news in search, and local tweets.

✔️ Bing expanded its ability to deliver rich SERP results by adding expandable carousels, infographic-like results that promote broad query usage, intuitive highlights that pull out privy info without forcing the user to click thru to the page, and integrated visual search which allows users to find similar products without having to enter several variations of queries to do so.

✔️ Google announced Pointy integration, which is a third-party platform that allows ecommerce businesses to automatically populate in-stock items in real time to the Google Business Profile listing.

Bottom line – Google will continue putting a real emphasis on serving up highly localized information as demand for geographic proximity-based searches continues to rise. In addition to this, for brick and mortar shopping centers, Google Business Profile should be used to set products up for maximum local visibility.

Preliminary November Core Update Data Trends Shows E-A-T Practitioners Coming out On Top

Here are the data trends broken out by category:

📙 Reference Materials – for the Wikipedias, Mapquests, and Yelps of the web, there has been an increase in visibility for definition based SERPs for queries that call for trusted, straightforward information.

📰 News & Media – more news outlets saw larger declines that news outlets that saw increases.

🛍️ Ecommerce & Shopping – Amazon, Walmart, Etsy and Target saw the largest gains, which is likely due to the core update rolling out just prior to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There wasn’t a notable decline for any recognizable big box retailers.

🏥 Health – there has been a fair amount of fluctuation for medical and well being sites. Sites that follow Google’s E-A-T guidelines are typically the ones that come out on top.

📜 Law & Government – Google adjusts its algorithms to accommodate the livelihood and safety of searchers as seen in CDC documentation showing up in SERPs more frequently, but has recently dialed back their exposure ahead of the holiday season.

Bottom line – the companies that saw the largest decline in organic search performance as a result of the November core update were Pinterest even with stock photography entities like Shutterstock and Getty Images seeing a significant increase. Sites that show large levels of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness saw the largest gains.

Google Will Always Show Results that Satisfy the User’s Search

@darth_na recently reminded the technical SEO world that Google is in a constant state of checks and balances as it relates to deciding what URLs will be part of its index and why.

① Submitting a URL to an XML sitemap doesn’t guarantee the URL will be crawled.

Why? ➡️ This could be for a number of reasons that span from Google’s request to crawl are being blocked by robots.txt, the server, redirects, server errors, 404s—the list goes on. The most common reason for this is due to robots.txt not being set up correctly.

② Just because content is crawled by Google and is eligible to appear in Google’s index, doesn’t mean Google will opt to serve it up as an option for searchers.

Why? ➡️ The URL might be being blocked from unintentional noindex tags, is comprised of inaccurate, thin or unoriginal content, or the website might be subject to a manual action for security penalty.

③ Just because a page is indexed does not mean the page will rank.

Why? ➡️ Content may be in Google’s knowledge base but it’s entirely up to Google to rank or decline to rank the page if technical, UX or quality issues are present—Google can choose to rank whatever it wants.

④ Disallow rules in the robots.txt file, like everything else in SEO, are strictly additional signals to send to Google (in addition to including the URL in the robots.txt file) to block a page from being indexed. Just because a disallow rule is added to a robots.txt file, does not guarantee that the page will not be indexed.

Why? ➡️ FOr example, a page might not have been recrawled or a robots.txt file is blocking the URL from being seen by crawlers and in doing so blocking crawlers from seeing the tag. The only way to guarantee a URL doesn’t get indexed is to 1. Make sure it doesn’t exist (delete the page) or 2. password protect it.

⑤ A noindex tag doesn’t impact the visibility of a URL to Googlebot (aka Crawley).

Why? ➡️ If a page doesn’t exist on the site naturally, say it exists through faceted navigation where a query is combined with a branded search term enough that the SERPs begin to show a page a parameterized page that wouldn’t otherwise be indexed by Google or seen by users, Google will recognize the value of this page and show it in the SERPs to satisfy the user’s search intent.

⑥ Google doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to obey your canonical tags*.

Why? ➡️ Google won’t honor pages with canonical tags or canonicalized pages that are messy, not trustworthy or confusing.

*Canonical tags are signals to Google that content represents an exact duplicate or near duplicate of a master version of that URL (the canonicalized page).

Bottom line – Google will 10 times out of 10 always show SERPs that cater to a searcher’s problem or question.

SEO Reporting Should Always Include Goals with Defined KPIs

Aleyda Solis outlines the ideal state of organic search reporting format that re-emphasizes why asking three basic questions matters.

❔How is the actual performance pacing against benchmarked (or forecasted) performance
❔Why is this? Were all projected tasks completed? What’s tasks are blocked because of the client, because of the vendor, or because of Momentic?
❔What are next steps?

Best practice – For clients that don’t have specific forecasting goals, it’s important to stick to a simple interpretation of performance by looking at existing growth measured against growth in previous years.

Bottom line – Always ensure an SEO partnership is staged with the flexibility to pivot strategy and tactics.

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