Understanding Google’s November 2021 core update

With Google’s November core update having completed roll-out last week, in this article, Croud’s SEO Account Directors Harry Newbury and Chris Kerr explore what this update could mean for you, and how Croud can make sure your business stays on top of any implications of future core updates.

The announcement

Google confirmed on the 30th November, 13 days after its initial release, that the November 2021 core update has finished rolling out. The timing of the update initially came as a shock to many in the industry, as it was announced just before some of the largest shopping events in the calendar; notably Black Friday. 

That said, Google has a history when it comes to rolling out updates towards the end of the year. 2020 saw the December core update begin to roll out, and the international rollout of BERT was confirmed in December 2019. In fact, you have to go back to 2015 to find the last instance where we didn’t have a November or December algorithm update.

As with most core updates, the only guidance Google has provided webmasters with for this update was their 2019 article, “What site owners should know about Google’s core updates.

How disruptive was the November 2021 Core update?

Semrush data reveals that the November core update was released hard and fast, with volatility marked as 9.3/10 “Very High” the day after its announcement. Several other tracking tools such as Advanced Web Rankings, Mozcast and RankRanger, also confirmed the heavy initial release.

Source: https://www.semrush.com/sensor/

According to Semrush, the November update was 12% more volatile than its predecessor, the July core update. Mobile search results saw even greater volatility and were up 23%. This means that when measuring the impact of this algorithm update, it’s vital to keep an eye on your mobile rankings too.

Source: https://www.semrush.com/blog/google-november-2021-core-update/

As with a number of other algorithm updates, the health industry saw the highest volatility in November, 41% greater than the July update across both desktop and mobile. Google has been trying to improve the search experience across health related queries, so this comes as no surprise.

Other industries that experienced the largest increases in ranking volatility (relative to July) were:

  • Travel
  • Real estate
  • Science
  • Autos & vehicles

Furthermore, according to Semrush, across all industries only 84% of the URLs which were ranking in the top 20 positions before the update are still ranking between positions 1-20. This means that 16% of ranking URLs have fallen from the first two pages of Google since the rollout of the November core update. 

Our approach to ensuring our clients stay well informed 

There has already been a lot written about the anticipation and analysis surrounding the impact of core updates but it’s vitally important to remember that our focus is not only its effect on our industry, but more importantly its impact on our clients’ business. That’s why once we predict, forecast, or are notified of a broad core update, we understand the importance of deploying the following proactive communication measures, to ensure our clients stay ahead of the curve while being able to inform their internal teams of its potential impact. 

1. Proactive communications

Reaching out to clients when a core update is announced is the most important. By keeping key stakeholders informed on all things related to core updates, we are able to prepare for movements in performance, while ensuring clients are in a positive position to provide commentary on potential impacts across their internal teams.

2. Execute daily performance analysis

We know from our experience it typically takes one to two weeks for a core update to complete its rollout. During that time, search results are often volatile to change as rankings continually shift across verticals. It’s vitally important to conduct daily checks across analytics and ranking data to ensure all shifts are recorded and acted upon accordingly after adequate analysis has been completed. Avoiding “knee-jerk” reactions is a key component of our messaging to ensure all decisions are handled once the rollout has been completed and driven by data.

3. Clear and consistent communication throughout 

Core updates require a lot more than one-way communication. Ongoing dialogue goes a long way in easing client concerns that highlight why these updates are important to their business and their influence on the competitive landscape.

In the event of a negative impact, it is crucial to interpret the results and diagnose the root-cause(s) of the drop. Once ascertained, these should be communicated and remedial steps built into a clear recovery roadmap. Often overlooked, though arguably as important, is investigating any positive uplifts associated with an algorithm update. This can unearth strengths across some parts of a website that can be replicated across another.

Providing learnings across our portfolios to ensure our teams can replicate successful strategies are key elements of a successful broad core update analysis.

What to do if you were hit by the November core algorithm update

As with most updates, guidance provided by Google doesn’t include any specific actions that might be required to recover any lost visibility. As a result of this, it’s often hard to isolate what you need to do to reverse any algorithmic damage. This update and others like it reveal to us that core updates can cover a lot of different quality signals. As Google themselves have stated:

It’s also important to understand that search engines like Google do not understand content the way human beings do. Instead, we look for signals we can gather about content and understand how those correlate with how humans assess relevance.

Of course, no algorithm update made to Search will be perfect and Google has a history of rolling back tweaks they’ve made. If you’ve been negatively affected by an update, it can be valuable to wait for the dust to settle and then look at the data.

If you’ve seen a drop in organic performance, you should always start with an overall health check of your website. Taking this step back will allow you to make sure that all your content is relevant, of high quality and meets your customers’ needs, and also that your website has strong technical foundations.

If you need assistance conducting these health checks, feel free to get in touch with our team.

by Croud
9 December 2021



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