The world of search engine marketing (SEM) is constantly evolving. From new Google Analytics tracking features to significant organic search engine algorithm updates that offer new ways to get to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), our team of search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) experts have collected the most impactful SEM updates that you need to know.
Search Engine Land: The Google Page Experience Update: User experience to become a Google ranking factor
Page experience and SEO go hand in hand. In 2021, user experience will become a direct ranking factor within the Google algorithm. What this means is that if your page does not provide the user with a good experience, your page could rank lower on the search engine results page.
How will Google quantify a good user experience? They will use a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals. These metrics include things such as how quickly the page loads, how people are interacting with the page, and if the page is stable as people scroll through the it. Google provides a more detailed list of page experience criteria in this developer document.
This ranking factor update is slated to roll out in June 2021. What can you do to prepare for this change? Check your core web vitals within the core web vitals report in the Google Search Console. If there are certain core web vitals that are sub-par, work to improve those aspects of your website. If you don’t know how to improve these elements, we can help. Reach out to us here.
Search Engine Land: Google launched subtopics ranking in mid-November
Google rolled out subtopic ranking in November 2020, which caused volatility on the search engine results page (SERP). What is subtopic ranking? It allows Google to provide a wider breadth of relevant content for broader searches. For example, if you are looking for home workout equipment, Google will provide results for cost-efficient options, high-end options and options for working out in small space. The reason behind this update is that Google is looking to improve the relevancy of the results it is providing. While this update helps Google highlight and categorize content at a granular level, it does not have a noticeable impact on organic search results as a whole. Content writers should continue to write organized and thoughtful content that appeals to readers and updates like subtopic ranking only help provide more relevant options, like your great content, to searchers.
Search Engine Land: Google’s December 2020 core update was big, even bigger than May 2020, say data providers
Google is constantly updating and tweaking its many algorithms that determine the ranking of organic search results. The larger Core Updates are announced separately and generally include a larger change in search ranking. In 2020, Google released a May Core Update and a December Core Update. While the May Core Update was broad in the number of affected websites and large in its impact on ranking, it looks like the December Core Update was even more impactful. Across many measured website categories, the December Core Update caused high search volatility and ranking changes.
Because of the reported breadth and depth of this update, it is important to monitor for any significant changes in search visibility or traffic in the wake of the December Core Update. Google Analytics and Google Search Console offer valuable insight when tracking this data. If your website lost expected traffic or impressions in this time frame, you may have been affected by this update and changes to your website may be needed to regain traffic.
Google Search Liaison: Google Rolls out Passage Ranking
Google has always read the contents of a webpage to rank and categorize it appropriately. Now, improvements to the artificial intelligence powering the Google search engine are rolling out “passage identification.” This is an even more specific categorization that can pull parts of a piece of content that may cover multiple topics in order to surface the most relevant content for searchers. The official language from Google states, “By understanding passages in addition to the relevancy of the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for. This technology will improve 7% of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.”
A ranking change that affects 7% of all queries is a sizable shift. However, the best practice for content remains the same as it was previously: thoughtful, relevant and organized content will perform better than scattershot and light content. Content developers should continue to prioritize quality over quantity and if their webpage covers multiple topics, consider the best way to make those topics clear and easy to understand.
Google Ads: Google is Changing Match Types
In February 2021, Google started rolling out a change to the way that broad match modified (BMM) keywords work. Now, both phrase match and broad match modified keywords have the same matching behavior. This updated phrase match behavior now considers word order when matching searches to ads. Starting in July 2021, you will no longer be able to add broad match modified keywords. Your existing broad match modified keywords will transition to phrase match keywords
Google has recommended that moving forward, marketers use phrase match keywords. However, there is no performance bonus for switching current keywords to phrase match keywords. Phrase keywords may see a sudden boost in volume of traffic and BMM keywords may see a corresponding decrease. Adding new and relevant phrase match keywords and shoring up any BMM keywords that have decreased over time should help increase performance.
Google Ads: Lead Form Extension Out of Beta
It is no secret that conversion rates are lower on mobile devices. To help advertisers generate more leads on mobile, Google has launched a new Lead Form extension, which allows a user to submit their information right from the ad, without having to click-through to a landing page first.
How the lead form extension works:
- First, you create a lead form extension in Google Ads and add it to any of your search, video, discovery or display campaigns.
- Then when a user on a mobile device interacts with one of your ads that has the lead form enabled, they can submit their contact information right from the ad.
- You can download the leads from Google Ads in a CSV file or setup a webhook integration which will allow you to receive leads directly in your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
We know that making lead capture forms easier to complete can contribute to increased campaign performance but using this new lead form extension does not guarantee success. By eliminating the step of sending users to a post-click page to convert, you miss out on fully introducing the user to your brand and you won’t have the opportunity to gather meaningful data on how your users would have interacted with your landing page.
Despite that, given the traditionally lower conversion rates on mobile, this lead form extension is still worth testing out to see if it can improve your campaign’s performance.
Google Developers: Google Analytics 4 – What you Need to Know
Google Analytics 4 is the next big update to the Google Analytics platform. This new version of Google Analytics changes everything from the appearance of the platform to how certain metrics are tracked within Google Analytics. While this release actually soft-launched in 2019 (under the name “App + Web”), GA 4is targeting 2021 to officially release more features and roll out across more Google Analytics accounts. To access GA 4, you need to update a global site tag for your associated Google Analytics property.
Google Analytics 4 is an update that changes important metrics, and as a result, changes what you can expect from your property. It also combines app and website metrics even further to create a more unified view of your business performance. While GA 4 is not the default property for businesses currently, it is available now and will become the default option in the future.
This update details how to add the global site tag to your webpage in order to access GA 4 properties for your webpage. There are different processes for a property that doesn’t yet exist in Google Analytics and an existing Google Analytics property that may need to be modified. Any webpage should only have one global site tag active, so keep that in mind if you are trying to add a GA 4 property.