2021 Google Updates That Your Brand Would Benefit to Know

February 9, 2021

Account for these updates and start refining your marketing strategy. See the Google Updates slated to take full effect in 2021!

  1. Page Experience Algorithm
  2. App + Web: The Updated Google Analytics
  3. Free Listings on Google’s SERPs
  4. Clickable Hashtags on Google Discover
  5. Full Implementation of the Mobile-First Indexing

GOOGLE UPDATE 1: Page Experience Algorithm

The Page Experience Algorithm update, according to Google, would measure “aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page”. They want to ensure that people enjoy and are served with the most helpful content online, by bringing them more of the webpages that contribute to a superior user experience. Google will do this by looking at inherent usability markers peppered within individual webpages, which show how useful one website is, in general, to users. What the update means is that Google will find these usability markers and approach it on a webpage level. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the website as a whole won’t be considered, but only that Google’s going to give greater weight to individual pages and how well each one serves the users—how satisfied your users are after using that page.

Neil Patel says it best when he said that this move is Google’s way of “adapting its algorithm to more closely align with the mission of showing the sites first that users love the most.” To do this, he suggests optimising your pages in a way that 1. speeds up the loading time; 2. reducing 400 errors; 3. comparing your (web) experience to that of competitors; and 4. analysing the webpage’s design. The end goal here is to provide users with the most optimal experience on your website, so that Google can in turn reward you with a higher ranking. Expect to see this update fully rolled out in May.

GOOGLE UPDATE 2: App + Web: The Updated Google Analytics

Google’s breathing new life into its Google Analytics platform. The App + Web, Google’s new measurement model for web traffic, is the third major change to Google Analytics. If you’re not looking, you’d easily miss these changes, especially since these are not so obvious at face value from the existing Google Analytics UI. While the new App + Web platform is not necessarily serving new things but more likely upgrading them, but still there are some things that you have to manually re-add as automatic transitions from Google Analytics to App + Web are not very possible.

Search Discovery gave an insightful dive into App + Web and highlighted four things about this update:

  1. Commonly tracked activities may be enabled without having to change codes through a feature called “Enhanced Measurement”
  2. Better tools for viewing customer data across multiple platforms
  3. Old dashboards, as well as custom reports, are now overhauled with new powerful tools for conducting analysis and sharing findings
  4. The BigQuery integration for everyone to access complete as well as unsampled data

GOOGLE UPDATE 3: Free Listings on Google’s SERPs

One of Google’s earliest responses towards the pandemic is the free listing on Google Shopping, rolled out formally in the US during the last week of April 2020, first deployed on mobile then desktop, and now functional globally since October last year. Basically, Google’s now giving a space for merchants’ products to appear on a specific area on the page results—whether they advertise on Google or not. Since paying for Google Ads is not a prerequisite for this update, this especially gives small business owners the chance to get users into their product pages if their products closely relate to the keywords used during the enquiry. They can be discovered by shoppers looking to purchase, without having to pay for the clicks, which is a big thing for merchants who don’t have the resources to run their own GA campaigns.

GOOGLE UPDATE 4: Clickable Hashtags on Google Discover

If you haven’t noticed already but Google’s all for creating updates that benefit end-users. End-users, as opposed to merchants and other cohorts like marketers, are pretty high up on their list of priority for this year, so you can expect future updates to benefit a normal user. Even this little list shows latent evidence of this.

Google Discover uses a user’s search history, browser history, app activity and sometimes even location to track people’s “interests”. Rolled out in 2018, it’s been getting few updates since then and the latest has something to do with clickable hashtags on featured articles. Like hashtags used on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, you can leverage Discover hashtags the same way, too—to provide users with more content about things that matter and are relevant to them and their needs.

GOOGLE UPDATE 5: Full Implementation of the Mobile-First Indexing

If you think you’ve already heard about Google’s mobile-first approach, then you’re not mistaken—it’s been circulating on the digital marketing lexicon for about five years now, although full implementation is just set to roll out completely in March this year. We’ve mentioned the non-negotiability of this update, especially on our website design trends for 2021 article, and for the right reason—Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller also says yes—once rolled out, the mobile-first index update will exclude all desktop-only sites.

The Mobile-first approach was a response to the popularity of mobile search among users, which was proportional to the growth and popularity of smartphones. Initially, mobile-first indexing wanted to correct the mismatch between the ranking on mobile and web.

To alleviate this massive step, Google recommends: 1. making sure that your website content is visible to bots and crawlers; 2. filling out meta tags on both mobile and desktop versions of the landing pages; 3. enabling “lazy loading”; 4. making sure you’re not blocking relevant, mobile-specific URLs in robots.txt files; 5. having identical primary content on both web & mobile versions; and 6. checking alt tags of both image & video embeds.

SPECIAL MENTION: Google Local 3-Pack

While it doesn’t have any major upgrades for this year (as of writing), we still think Google’s 3-Pack is worth mentioning, enough to include it on our 2020 marketing wrap up article. What the pandemic has also done in terms of e-commerce and retail shopping is disrupt people’s patterns of behaviour; people that you wouldn’t normally think are now buying online and are enjoying it, with many predicting that this shift isn’t in the near future. And they’re buying locally.

If you think about it, the Local 3-Pack is mostly connected to the Free Listing update on Google’s SERPs, and should definitely be looked into when you’re calibrating your strategies for this year.

Are your digital marketing strategies ready to accommodate these major Google updates?

SEO is always changing, and while dizzying, we have to be ready to accommodate these changes lest we lag behind the competition. Google, being the encompassing platform that it is, will continue serving upgrades for the benefit of the end-users. The challenge is in fool-proofing your brand to welcome these innovations.

And you have a chance—especially with a team of digital marketing experts next to you. Message us and enquire today!

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