Where are Google and SEO heading in 2021? Last month, the search engine gave a nice insight into how new AI techniques work on the algorithms. Four developments will turn the search results upside down in the coming year. And they are pretty awesome!
Some of the biggest improvements to search ever.
That’s what Cathy Edwards, Google’s Vice President of Engineering, calls the new technologies. In this long video, she tells all about it. The biggest changes are at least 7% of search results and influence on the further implementation of artificial intelligence in Google’s algorithms.
What will change in Google’s algorithms in 2021?
The new AI algorithms have several consequences for search results. I highlight 4 related to SEO:
- Paragraphs are indexed ‘loosely.’
- Google takes the highlights from YouTube videos.
- Google no longer needs exact keywords.
- Spelling mistakes will really no longer matter.
NB. As with all Google updates, they are first tested and rolled out on a large scale in English-speaking areas. The Dutch language area is always up-to-date a little later. So the question is always to what extent these updates will work just as well in Dutch as in English, but it does provide a good grip for your pages.
Paragraphs are indexed ‘loosely.’
As a SEO’er can get started with right away, the most interesting change is the loose indexation of paragraphs. Why? This allows Google to find the needle in the haystack in very specific searches.
Immediately a nuance: loose indexation does not mean that Google only includes a single paragraph in the search results. It means that the search engine can distinguish sub-topics per page and thus rank them for multiple searches.
This change doesn’t mean we’re indexing individual passages independently of pages. We’re still indexing pages and considering info about entire pages for ranking. But now we can also consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor….– Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 20, 2020
Because the algorithms now focus less on the main topic of a page but more on the content, we will soon see different results.
This means that a specific piece of text (right) gives a much better answer to the search question than the page on the left, which seems to correspond much better to the question’s subject. In this example, a reply submitted to a DIY forum (right) is a better search result than the most optimized web page around this topic (left).
Opportunity for optimization: in each paragraph, give as concrete an answer as possible to questions that readers may have about your product. In other words, turn your subheadings into a question and answer it in the paragraph below. Extra advantage: this way, you also optimize your pages directly for voice search.
And with a view to informative pages:
- Make complete pages per subject.
- Do not create a new page for every sub-topic, but see which content you can merge into one article.
- Keep in mind the search intent.
For example, if a subtopic lends itself to a transactional page, that’s preferred!
Google chooses the highlights in YouTube videos.
Soon we will see more and more ‘cut to pieces’ videos emerge. Google’s new AI technology makes it possible to see which parts of a YouTube video consist, and when those parts start. Just like paragraph indexation, but for videos. It will look like this later:
Optimization tip: create how-to videos and adapt your storyline to frequently asked questions about the topic you are highlighting. Also, put timestamps in your videos’ description, so you determine what the highlights are in your video, and you help Google on its way.
Google no longer needs exact keywords.
The enhanced influence of AI on Google means very concretely: if you now enter a description as a search query – ‘ fruit that looks like an orange pufferfish ‘ – then the algorithms know that you mean the kiwano fruit.
In other words, the search engine doesn’t need a targeted keyword (‘kiwano’ in this case) to know what you’re looking for. This means that especially long searches (long-tail) and voice searches via Google Assistant and Google Home can increasingly be sent to your content.
Optimization opportunity: rich content. Pages with a lot of contexts will soon be found better. So don’t be too frugal with your adjectives, synonyms, descriptions, and creative metaphors!
Spelling mistakes don’t matter anymore.
This sounds like old news, but according to Cathy, Google’s suggestion tool is getting an update that is larger than all the updates from the last 5 years combined.
Biggest improvement point: thanks to machine learning, the algorithms now also see when a correctly spelled word should actually have been something else. For example, if you enter cookie do, the algorithm knows that you mean cookie dough.
Chance of optimization: none! At least, an error-free text is still the best for the reader. Pages deliberately optimized for typos are no longer rewarded.
Ready for 2021!
These are the 4 biggest changes to the algorithm for 2021. Google has taken a big step forward in understanding content as a whole and in the sub-topics per page.
Google will reward-rich and demand-oriented content even more. So when writing your pages, uploading YouTube videos, or creating Web Stories, really take the reader as a starting point!
And also, pay attention to the user-friendliness and speed of your pages/website in the coming year. Google recently announced that these ‘ Core Web Vitals ‘ will be an important ranking factor from May 2021.
Good luck with optimizing!