Biggest Google Algorithm Updates of 2021

Published In : 05-November-2021

We are familiar with the term “google algorithm”. We also know what role the google algorithm plays in the SERP rankings and how it affects our SEO process.

Earlier, Google used to make only a few updates to its algorithms. Now, Google makes hundreds of changes every year.

Important Google Algorithm Updates of 2021

Throughout this year, Google regularly made updates to their algorithms, which caused changes in the search results. In 2021 so far, Google has already rolled out many core algorithm updates, such as:

  • Google Vicinity Update ( December 2021)
  • Page title update (August 2021)
  • Page experience update (June 2021)
  • Link spam update (June 2021)
  • MUM update (May 2021)
  • Product reviews update (April 2021)
  • 100% mobile-first indexing update (March 2021)
  • “About this result” update (February 2021)
  • Passage ranking update (February 2021)

In this article, we’re gonna discuss the 9 most impactful Google algorithm updates mentioned above, from the latest update to the first algorithm update of this year(2021).

1. Google Vicinity Update ( December 2021)

Google recently rolled out an update to the local search and map pack results. The update began on November 30 and finished on December 8.

vicinity update

“Vicinity” can be defined as the nearby area or surrounding a particular place. According to many SEO specialists, this update was mainly about proximity.

Through the Vicinity update, Google naturally makes local search results more relevant to the user. From a business’s point of view, this gives a greater chance to rank well in relevant local searches, as the competition with businesses that are further away will be reduced.

2. Google Page Title Update (August 2021) 

Google has been using page titles in the SERP according to the query for over a decade. Recently, on 16 of August to be exact, people began noticing that Google was drastically changing their page titles, often in a deleterious way. After people started talking and complaining about this, Google confirmed that it introduced a new system that will no longer adjust titles according to queries but to better represent the page as a whole.  

Since titles are being generated from H1s, image tags, and even anchor text from other pages, this Page title update is not being accepted well by the SEO Community.  

Google Page title update

GSC data a week before title rewrite for keyword “advantages of social media” 

Google Page title update

GSC data a week after title rewrite for keyword “advantages of social media” 

 This update has negatively impacted many websites including ours.  

Google Page title update

3. Google Page Experience Update (June 2021)

Google introduced a specific set of metrics through the page experience update called Core Web Vitals, in addition to indexing the mobile version of websites. These are newly prioritized factors to quantify a person’s experience of a webpage. 

Core Web Vitals are a set of precise factors which Google considers essential in a webpage’s overall user experience. Core Web Vitals includes largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): how long it takes a page to load the main content from the point of view of an actual user. 
  • First Input Delay (FID): The time it takes for a user to interact with the web page. 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): how stable the layout is as it loads   

Core Web Vitals

To access the Core web vitals, we can use  Page Speed Insights or the full Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console.  

Core Web Vitals

These reports also come with recommendations to enhance the responsiveness of the web page. 

Google Page experience update

Here are some things you can do to improve your Core Web Vitals: 

  • Exclude intrusive interstitials or banners that block content. 
  • Reduce JavaScript execution 
  • Implement lazy loading 
  • Optimize & compress images 
  • Provide proper dimensions for images & embedded files 
  • Try to improve server response time 

4. Google Link Spam Update (June 2021)

Link spam update was implemented on the web page and image results excluding local results in June 2021.

This update had two phases. Google mentioned that each of the phases would start and finish on the same day, but took around two weeks to complete. Even though there weren’t many details on this update, it’s good to check and make sure our website is guarded against spam. 

We should be careful of this spam if your website provides user interaction through comments, forums, etc. 

Implement the following tips to save your website from spammers: 

  • Update SSL certificate 
  • With Google Search Console, check for security issues and manual action reports. 
  • Use no-index to prevent Google from indexing low-trust pages, mainly the pages that display user-created content. You can also mark the links as no-follow. 

5. Google MUM Update (May 2021)

MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model. It is a new AI-based technology by Google to understand & answer complex search queries. MUM is a natural language model that is much more powerful than Google’s BERT update released in October 2019. 

 The update was landed in June 2021, to provide search results that overcome language & format barriers to deliver an improved search experience. MUM update uses contextual information from different sources around a core query, providing more information we want in a single search. 

 MUM can understand & translate 75+ different languages, which includes texts and images. It’s said that the MUM update will see us bid farewell to 2019 released Google’s BERT update. 

6. Google Product reviews Update (April 2021)

Google’s product reviews update April 2021 was rolled out to encourage product reviews that don’t just summarize a list of products but also focus on product review & product testing websites with a target to push high-quality and expert content in this category up the rankings. Google mentioned that this update is not a core update but an update in the ranking signal which makes the update important 

To create high-quality product review content, Google recommends the following suggestions: 

  • Express expert knowledge of the products. 
  • Share unique content other than what the manufacturer usually provides. 
  • Explain what makes the product stand apart from its competitors. 
  • Mention quantitative measurements i.e., how the product measures up in different categories of performance. 
  • Compare the product to previous models & other products. 
  • Discuss the pros & cons of a particular product. 
  • Help consumers make a wise purchasing decision. 

7. Google Mobile-first Indexing Update (March 2021)

Google began placing more importance on mobile friendliness as a ranking factor with the rise of mobile traffic in the 2010s. In 2016, mobile-first indexing was introduced — by which google crawls and ranks your website pages according to the mobile version of that content. 

Google Mobile-first indexing update

Mobile-first indexing became the default for all new websites by July 2019. It became the default for every old and new website as of June 2021. 

Here are the tips to optimize your website for mobile-friendliness: 

  • Make sure you have a responsive website. 
  • Use image compression & lazy loading. 
  • Test popups and form functionalities on your mobile phone manually. 

Even though Mobile-friendliness works on a page-by-page basis, you can find site-wide mobile performance data with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool & mobile usability report in Search Console. 

8. Google “About this result” Update (February 2021)

Google started providing additional context to individual search results so that users can make out which results of their query would be most helpful and informative to them with the ”About this result” of February 2021. 

“About this result” box contains: 

  • When the web page was first indexed by Google. 
  • Whether the website has a secure connection or not.  
  • Which terms that you searched for appear on that particular page. 
  • Whether other websites with similar search terms link to the current page. 
  • Which language is used on the page? 
  • Whether or not it seems relevant for this search query in many regions.  

The “About this result” box doesn’t impact your ranking in any way. It’s just a list of facts about the web page, some of which are search engine ranking factors, which includes: 

  • Be sure your site uses HTTPS. 
  • Getting quality backlinks. 
  • Properly matching the intent of the keyword.

9. Google Passage Ranking Update (February 2021) 

February 10th, 2021 and Google introduce its passage ranking update. Initially only launching in US English SERPs. With this update, Google can now use AI to index not only web pages, but also individual passages (paragraphs, sentences) from web pages. This means particular passages will show up as the featured snippet. The aim is to quickly answer very specific queries, instead of making the user go through the entire web page to find it.

Using an example, Google explains that it can now understand that the passage from the page (B) better answers the query than the result on the (A). “In this case, our systems were able to highlight a featured snippet, but this improvement applies to how we rank web pages overall.” 

Google Passage ranking update
Image source

The idea here is not to optimize posts for passage ranking, but to target long-tail keywords, provide in-depth, high-quality content on the topic, and structure your webpage content correctly to make indexing easier for Googlebot. 


Following are the Google Algorithm updates we discussed in this article: 

  • Google Vicinity Update
  • Page title update
  • Page experience update
  • Link spam update
  • MUM update
  • Product reviews update
  • 100% mobile-first indexing update
  • “About this result” update
  •  Passage ranking update

As a digital marketer, web developer, or business owner, it’s very important to be up to date and analyze your performance which will help you strengthen your strategy and improve the existing result. 

When it comes to SEO, just make sure to stay focused on EAT and best practices, and keep in mind that content is always the king. Updates will not affect your ranking much if you focus on the above-mentioned things.

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