Google is the internet’s most powerful search engines, and it’s the default search option for billions of people across the world. As the search engine that indexes most of the active internet, Google algorithm updates are always to be expected.
For them to maintain their strength they go on a regular updating spree that gives them the advantage above other competing search engines.
Just one update can change the way Google sees or shows things to its users.
If you work in the world of SEO at all, you want to stay ahead of the crowd. Here’s a look at the most important Google algorithm updates in 2021-2022.
Before we go into that, let’s cover some ground work…
What is the Google Algorithm?
Algorithms are, in essence, small parts of code that perform automatic actions – in fact the standard definition for the word “Algorithm” is that it is a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps.
Google is powerful and fast thanks to their use of algorithms to power search results, content and keywords. Algorithm updates are sometimes implemented to patch flaws, or to circumvent search result manipulation, or to add new features to Google searches, such as like “About This Result” or “Featured Snippets”.
The average search user might barely notice when an algorithm changes, but website owners, bloggers and SEO writers should always pay attention to these subtle updates. Algorithms alter the way the Google search engine crawls your website’s content, and how its most critical features respond to search queries.
When algorithms are out of date or malfunction, search engines produce inaccurate results: this is another reason why search engine algorithms get updated on a regular basis.
The Most Important Google Algorithm Updates
About This Result
About This Result is the algorithm that collects crucial information from a page and then displays it to the user so that they can decide which result is the most relevant for them. Some of the information you can expect to see thanks to the About This Result algorithm includes the date of first page indexing, the page language, any related meta data and linked content.
Google Core Algorithm
Core Algorithm Updates are large-scale changes to the Google algorithm that change the way things work. While the specifics are filled with a lot of programming jargon, what you should know is that Core updates happen at least once every few months – and is likely to change several things rather than just one element at a time.
Always watch for important core updates if you are in the world of SEO. A great resource for tracking Google algorithm changes, and a website we frequent regularly, is Search Engine Round Table.
Featured Snippets are search results that provide authoritative, clear answers to specific questions. This is one algorithm from Google that has been known to perform strangely in the past, with some featured snippets being removed from results entirely – and others pointing to incorrect information for the search.
Google has been updating their Featured Snippets algorithm to bring more accurate, relevant search results to users. Accuracy and originality are now some of the most important factors in determining what makes for a Featured Snippet versus a lower-ranked search result.
The Google Spam algorithm is much like the internet police, and de-ranks websites that are filled with spam instead of content. Since spam keeps changing since chain letters in the nineties, so does the Google Spam algorithm to cut out any results that are written to fool bots instead of to inform users.
The Link Spam algorithm is the one that Google has in charge of ranking sites that post a large amount of links, including sponsored and affiliate content. These content options are ranked lower than authoritative websites without these sponsored links – and that’s the most important thing that website owners and SEO wizards need to know about it.
Before this point, websites that contain “link spam” were harder to spot by Google’s search bots – although the new updates could have affected hundreds of websites that have needed to change.
Google MUM Algorithm
Google MUM is short for Multitask Unified Model, and is a more detailed way of searching with the use of audio or image criteria. Google Voice and Image searches will now, as a result of MUM, be far more accurate and be able to give the user access to all the information they could want to know.
Up until now, image and voice searches have not always been the most accurate. Google promises better results with the introduction of their MUM update.
Mobile-first indexing is a Google algorithm that chooses to rank mobile-friendly websites above ones that are not, especially for users who do most of their searches from mobile devices. Mobile internet use comprises most of the internet users in the world, and Google has put a lot of work into making sure that this algorithm remains up to date.
Mobile-friendly website that is responsive is a must for websites if they are to be ranked highly in the Google search engine results page.
Websites that are not optimised for mobile could risk being down-ranked, or they might even be removed from search results entirely.
The Page Experience algorithm ranks what a user’s experience might be when they visit a specific website. Different criteria is considered for this algorithm to decide exactly what is a good versus a bad result, though websites that users close without a click will count as going in the “bad” column for what Google’s search engine bots are looking for to prioritize results.
Nobody likes a website they can’t navigate their way through, and Google have made the whole search experience better by making sure their bots check for this first.
The Page Title algorithm is the one which computes which title to attach to search results under the description. Usually, the page title algorithm is accurate, though there have been times in the past where Page Title results have come up strange or with inaccuracies.
Recent updates to the Page Title algorithm have promised more accuracy for search results, and more concise page titles that represent the result as a whole.
The Passage Ranking algorithm paved the way for how search engines view whole pages and individual paragraphs to make a decision based on how sites should be ranked. Instead of just looking at keywords, Google can now examine an entire passage of writing and have its bots decide whether it should be made relevant to users or not.
Passage Ranking was first launched in February 2021, and is one of the newest (and most important) Google algorithm updates that you should be aware of.
Google Product (Structured Data & Google Merchant Center)
When searching for specific products, Google has their Product algorithm that points users in the direction of the best stores to buy the item, any relevant price comparisons and important details on the product you have searched for. This is where businesses must make proper use of Google Merchant Center, where they can create product feeds and add structured data to each product. With the updated product algorithm in place, Google bots now expect to see specific criteria for a website to match up to the user’s search intent and interest groups.
Reviews, for example, must cover comparisons between items, and include detailed, accurate information about the product being searched. It’s one way in which Google is trying to keep their algorithms more user-friendly. Read this handy guide on how to upload a product reviews feed over on Google.
Google’s search engine algorithm updates are rarely the first thing that people think about when they type their keyword into Google, but they are more important than most users realise. Algorithms are behind why search engines behave the way they do – and why copy for blogs and the internet are written the way they are.
Simple search engine updates can change the way your site gets ranked in an instant; if you want to stay on the first pages of Google, you have to know exactly what their most updated search bots are looking for right now.
Remember to check again. Algorithms don’t stay stagnant, but most Google algorithms will receive an update at least once every few months to keep search results as relevant as possible.