Updated 1. October 2021 by Peter Ottendahl Anberg

Google News September 2021

Google News September 2021

Google updates their search algorithms and products every month. So if you work with SEO, you need to stay updated. That’s why we’ve collected a handful of news that will help you in your future work.

September was a hectic month with many updates. Read on to find answers to common SEO questions, clarifications on title generation, and how to optimise your site for Discover and how to optimise e-commerce sites. Finally, we’ll take a look at the future of search with Google’s MUM. 

1 – Google clarifies how they generate titles

Last month, Google announced a new system for generating titles. However, after mixed reception, they have adjusted the model. They also clarified in which cases they will use other elements than the HTML title in their SERPs.

So, first of all, the vital thing to notice is that Google still uses the HTML title in 87% of all cases. If they find that title lacking or incorrect, they will generate a new one, often by using the H1 of the page in question.

So, when does Google decide to change the HTML title?

  1. If the HTML title is obsolete. For example, if the page content has been updated to the current year, but the HTML title still says 2020, Google will pick a better title.
  2. If the title is half-empty. This is usually a problem with templated titles such as the one produced by WordPress. Here a half-empty title tag could look like “ | Bonzer” which Google would fill out with something relevant.
  3. If the title is inaccurate. This is if the title is keyword stuffy or is static on a page with dynamic content, like an e-commerce category page. 
  4. If the title is a duplicate. If it shares a title with many other pages on the domain, Google will likely change it.

Read more right here.

2 – Google are testing multiple indented results

In July, Google started experimenting with showing indented search results when more than one URL would show on the same SERP.

This September, it looks like Google has been testing showing more than one indented search result.

As always when Google tests things, this might be rolled out broadly or be discarded after testing.

Below you can see what a single indented result looks like.

How to optimise – and if it’s even possible – is a question that yet remains to be answered. But it likely relates to site structure and internal linking.

3 – Don’t block content with CAPTCHAS

If you place your content behind CAPTCHAS, Google is not going to index that content.

How Google crawls, indexes, and renders the internet has million-dollar consequences.

And as a webmaster, you want to know how your choices affect the search result pages.

John Mueller recently confirmed that content gated behind captchas would not be rendered by Google, as Google can’t see it.

This aligns with what we know about other kinds of gated content, such as paywalls and lead submission forms.

In short, Google’s crawlers do not interact with this content. To test whether Google can see your content, you can use the URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console.

If gating the content is essential for you, but you still want Google to index and rank it, you can help by showing Google’s crawler the full version and still have your users required to fill out the CAPTCHA.

While this would typically fall under black hat manipulation tactics, John Mueller confirms that it’s fine in this case:

“From a policy point of view, we’re okay with situations where you serve us the full content, and you require a captcha on the user side. If you need to do that slightly differently for Googlebot or maybe other search engines than you would for the average user from our point of view, that’s fine.”

Read more right here.

4 – Google reportedly working on indexing Instagram and TikTok content

According to some sources, Google is working on hammering out a deal with Instagram and TikTok. This deal would allow the search engine to index content published on those platforms.

This would be in line with a similar deal that Google did with Twitter. Here, Google pays a licensing fee allowing it to index Tweets as they are published.

5 – Referral traffic doesn’t impact rankings

In a recent interview, Google’s search guru, John Mueller, stated that how much referral traffic passes through a backlink has no impact on its value.

While Google seemingly values user interaction and authenticity of links, they do not factor into how much “link equity” is passed from one page to another through backlinks.

So, as someone working with SEO, you should still make sure to have your links placed on sites that do receive traffic. But you shouldn’t panic about the amount of referral traffic.

6 – How to optimise for Discover Follow Beta

Google just updated their documentation for a beta feature of Discover available to some mobile Chrome users. In short, it allows searchers to follow their favourite content creators online.

The good news is that you might not have to do anything to optimise for this feature. Google uses any Atom or RSS feeds available and will often generate one if there is none.

However, to maintain control and give the best possible user experience, it is recommended that you split up your feeds and link to them from the relevant sections of your domain.

Check out Google’s documentation right here.

7 – New Lighthouse update adds specific LCP audit

Ever since the Page Experience Update, webmasters have rushed to optimise their page speed. One of the ways is by introducing “lazy loading”, wherein images not immediately visible are loaded later than above-the-fold content. This massively helps page speed as images are not loaded before they are needed.

However, the WordPress way of natively doing this has introduced lazy loading for all images, which has negatively impacted LCP scores worldwide. And as they are a ranking factor, we don’t want that to happen to our sites.

To solve this, Lighthouse 8.4 has added an audit to diagnose this problem precisely.

You can read more about this at Search Engine Journal.

8 – Google publishes best practices guide for e-commerce

Google has added a new section to their developer pages focusing on best practices for e-commerce websites. The new pages are aimed at developers and helpful to any e-commerce site publisher that sells products online and, therefore, the SEO industry.

There are seven brand new pages that concentrate on the following topics:

  • Where e-commerce content can appear on Google
  • Share your product data with Google
  • Include structured data relevant to eCommerce
  • How to launch a new e-commerce website
  • Designing a URL structure for e-commerce sites
  • Help Google understand your e-commerce site structure
  • Pagination, incremental page loading, and their impact on Google Search

Check them out here.

9 – Google announces a search redesign using the MUM algorithm

Google has announced that MUM (Multitask Unified Model) will be integrated into some searches. Google’s search results are undergoing changes that will give new ways to discover and explore topics in search. We can expect to see this rolled out and tested over the coming months and quarters.

It will, for example, allow you to enhance your searches with visuals:

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But besides this astonishing AI-powered development, it also means a lot for SEO worldwide.

MUM is changing searches in 3 fundamental ways:

Things to know

When you search for a topic, Google knows what issues relate to it. Their example is “acrylic painting.” Since Google knows how searchers usually explore this topic, they can make accurate suggestions for similar or related topics you’d probably be interested in.

This feature will launch in the coming months.

Topic zoom

Using MUM, Google will help you broaden or narrow your search quickly.

Visually browsable search results 

The SERPs of the future will also be much more visual. Google will enhance the browsing experience to include more featured images and videos directly on the result page for some search queries where the searcher is looking for inspiration.

Read all about the revolutionary MUM right here.

10 – Google expands their “About this result” feature

Earlier this year, in a step towards increased transparency, Google started showing “About this result” pages, guiding searchers towards why the result they are seeing is on top of the SERP.

Now they are adding extra pieces of information:

  1. See more details about the source, like what Wikipedia says about the origin and how the source describes itself
  2. How do other sites on the web describe or rate the page in question.
  3. You can find additional related information to the topic. 

Read more about it right here.