SEO news November 2021: A core update, new Google Maps features, and the future of SEO

It’s November, Black Friday has been and gone, but forget the sales — the best things in life are free. Just like our monthly Yoast SEO news webinar! Ready for a recap? We’ve got loads of SEO updates and industry news to spoil you with, so get comfortable and dive in.

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Google News

November 2021 Core Update

There are hundreds of continual tiny changes each year, so the idea of a Google update can feel a bit misleading. However, this update is one of those big, special ones: a core algorithm update. So in theory, this might have quite a big impact across the web.

A lot of these are about tackling spam and clearing out the nasty, lower levels of the web. So there’s nothing particularly special here. The one interesting thing was the timing: this is coming a week before the biggest shopping day of the year. And a lot of businesses will be panicking a little bit, because if your rankings tank the day before black Friday, it could have quite a big impact. So it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on your visibility. But really there’s nothing to change. If you’re doing the right kinds of things, you should be fine.

Interestingly, some of the early observations from the research is showing a lot of the winners are the kind of factual and editorial sites. Things like Wikipedia, Amazon, dictionary sites and resources. Whereas the losers are the kind of big, open user platforms like Pinterest. So most sites shouldn’t need to worry too much about it.

Page experience ranking is coming to desktop

Page experience ranking is a long way of saying ‘we make your site rank better if it’s faster’. Previously it was only rolled out on mobile and it’s now coming to desktop. We don’t expect that to change anything much. Most desktop sites are already a lot faster than mobile sites, or at least when browsed on a desktop (versus mobile), because chances are you have fancy wifi and more hardware.

Typically when you look at speed testing, it’s the mobile version that’s slower. But it’s definitely still worth double checking your desktop experience. Is it fast for everybody? Is it faster in all conditions? Does it behave properly? Go ahead and run the tests on your Core Web Vitals and PageSpeed Insights (which has also seen a small update this month). Just make sure your site is performing alright. This is landing in February, so you’ve got a bit of time to get ahead of that curve.

Updates to Google Business Profile and Local Shopping

Google My Business is now rebranding to Google Business Profile. As well as a new name, business profiles are now getting integrated properly into Google maps. No longer will it be a separate thing that you have to register for, remember to update and log in to separately. This will all just become part of managing your listing on Google maps.

So for example, in there you can say ‘I’m a pizzeria, we sell vegan pizza, here are our opening hours’, as well as manage your reviews, publish some posts, manage all the content and stuff like that. All of that in one place, which is great. If you are a business owner with a physical outlet or service area, you should be all over this. This is cool.

They’ve also added four more features to Google Maps to improve the Local Shopping experience:

Area busyness — this is basically telling you why the entire mall is busy, or whichever location you’re looking to visit.Directory tab — this tells you what is within a place, it’s a list of which businesses are in a particular area (we’re curious to see how this will work in major airports like Schiphol).Grocery shopping — for now, this feature is US-only, and limited to 30 retailers, but the idea is that you can check the status of your online order directly from the Google Maps listing.More info about restaurants — Google have added some nice extra details in restaurant overviews, including the price per person.

Google confirms bold text can help with SEO

Now this is our biggest news in the last decade, though it’s potentially slightly overstated. John Mueller, who is one of the points of contact at Google, confirmed that bolding text on a page can help Google to understand what that page is about and the relative importance of text, which makes a lot of sense.

When you think about it, the reason that you would — as a writer — bold a piece of text or a word, is because you want to emphasize it and draw attention to it. And then yes, of course, Google is smart enough to understand this. But that absolutely doesn’t mean that you should go and automatically make all of your target keywords bold, or the first sentence of every page. There is no magic wand here. The takeaway it’s important to remember is that bolding and title sizing, and even maybe underlining, are important tools when you’re crafting content. That can change how the content is read, it can change what the most important pieces are to a reader. And Google understands that in the same way. So use these tools the way that they’re meant to be used. But yeah, don’t go crazy.

Google on the future of SEO (and it’s not voice search)

So we’ve had seven prediction from Google about what’s next for SEO. This was on the Search Off the Record podcast; it’s a few of the Googlers talking a bit about how the system works and giving away some nuggets of information. I think, again, this is a bit overstated. I don’t think these were formal predictions from Google.

It was an interesting discussion between some people, there were some interesting nuggets. Like they were saying should people really have to learn and understand HTML? Or should they just rely on things like WordPress to take care of it for them? And you can make an argument either way. It’s one of the great things that Yoast SEO does as well. You don’t have to think about any of the technical stuff. Maybe, if you want a competitive edge, there is value in learning it and tweaking some of the settings based on your unique setup. But the podcast kind of oversimplified that, and we had the same kind of problem with all of these predictions. Do we think that one day we might not need URLs? Do we think that one day we might not need meta-tags? Is this all going to change? What is the world of content?

The really frustrating one was that they said maybe one day Google won’t need markup and structured data. We’ve put a huge amount of work into the Yoast plugins to describe your content with structured data. We say here’s the author, here is the date it was published, here’s the stock availability of this product, here’s the logo of the organization that published the website. Maybe with a perfect AI Google could work all of that out. But would it work reliably enough? Probably not, when you look at every website and use-case. Structured data is an incredibly powerful tool for specifically describing your business and your site. And that’s not likely to change. It’s super important, it will continue to be important.

It was nice to see Google saying that voice search is not the future of search. This we agree on! Voice search is search. It’s not different. We’re not going to optimize differently for voice search. We just optimize for search, because in search too, people are searching with ever more words, and with more with sentence-like queries. So these are not separate things, don’t pretend that that are. End of story.

More SEO news in November 2021

We covered even more topics in the webinar, but we won’t go in-depth on these in this recap post. Take a look at the snippets below to see what you’re missing. Want to hear more? Watch the replay here!

Googling is trying out translated results for Indian searchGoogle has been discussing the potential for high quality content written by machines in the futureAhrefs have done some great work demystifying Google’s quality rater guidelinesSemrush have been researching what kind of content appears in Google Discover

WordPress news

In WordPress news, the release of WordPress 5.9 has been delayed. Meanwhile, progress is being made with plans for the new WordPress Performance team — a project combining the forces of our Yoast WordPress core team, along with WordPress and Google too.

Other tech news

In other tech industry updates, we’ve been talking about the news that Apple’s app tracking policy has led to big losses for social media platforms. Reports suggest around $10 billion in ‘lost revenue’ — but was that really an income source they should have been getting in the first place? And of course, we couldn’t miss the news that Facebook has now become Meta

Yoast SEO news

In Yoast SEO news, we’ve had lots of exciting stuff to announce! In Yoast 17.5 we released full Greek language support, which is a really big deal for our users in Greece. Meanwhile, in Yoast SEO 17.6 we mainly focused on bug fixes, but at the same time we released new-and-improved XML sitemaps for our News SEO plugin.

Aside from new features and plugin updates, we’ve got some nice events coming up soon. Jono, a leading expert (among his many talents), will be leading a workshop about boosting your organic visibility using structured data on December 7. And last but not least, we’ll be holding our last SEO news webinar of the year on December 21, with the latest news as always, but we’ll also be taking a look ahead at what 2022 may bring. We hope to see you there!

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