2021 State of SEO Webinar: Your Questions Answered

Thank you to everyone who joined our State of Web SEO webinar in mid-November; You are welcome to access the on-demand registration at your convenience. We wanted to use this webinar as an opportunity to get involved and see how the community feels about the different aspects of SEO as we all plan for 2022. We appreciate everyone who participated in the interactive webinar – full results of the polls can be found in this SEO status blog post for the year 2021.

We received a lot of questions during the webinar and unfortunately due to the amount of content provided we were unable to get a proper FAQ. We want to address some of the questions that seem to have common themes here. If we are unable to respond to any questions or concerns you have in the coming year, we encourage you to reach out to your BrightEdge Customer Success Manager so we can help you and your organization have the best 2022 possible!

There were three themes we identified in the questions, so let’s take a look at them now!

1. What exactly are the targets of the three spam updates in 2021?

Google usually doesn’t go into detail about what each spam update handles each year. Based on what we’ve been able to uncover and what the community has flagged as pertinent to the updates, it appears that there are a few areas these updates are designed to help with. As you might expect, it aligns perfectly with many other initiatives that Google has taken in 2021!

With the summer update, details provided by Google indicated that this was a global update that would affect web results and images. In its communications with webmasters during the rollout, Google shared its general webmaster guidelines and when we look at those guidelines along with spam updates from the previous year, we believe this spam update was primarily focused on automated, scripted content.

We didn’t see major shifts one way or the other (while rolling out this spam update, Google also had core updates over the summer that may have affected your results, rather than a spam update). We haven’t seen significant changes in target sites looking at Black Hat’s resources, which leads us to believe that the nature of targeting for this update was not different from the path that Google is following. If you are scraping or autoplaying content, you may see these pages suffer from this update.

It’s too early to confirm the November update, and we’re not posting big moves in the rankings this month, but we’re seeing talk that webmasters have been affected. There haven’t been any specific updates to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on what counts as spam, indicating that new types of spam are not targeted. Based on those conversations, this update appears to have affected sites that use anonymity in order to inject links into their sites. We don’t have confirmed data on this, but as always, we believe the best policy is to ensure that your tactics and strategies fall within Google’s guidelines.

2. Since content quality is the key, is it still necessary to have long articles if shorter content is more relevant?

One of the things we discussed about developments in 2021 was that it suggested that Google was interested in finding ways to make content useful without its formatting being a barrier to the user. This means that updates like Passage-based indexing and larger initiatives like MUM can democratize content, so no matter how you search, Google can elicit a helpful answer for you by drawing on content from multiple formats, languages, and assets. Very cool stuff!

We actually believe that these developments should allow you to focus more on what is most relevant to your direct customer. For example, if you are creating a page about lawn mower care, you will probably need to cover a lot of ground – from cleaning it, to replacing parts, to general maintenance etc. This update should allow Google to decode and highlight the specific parts of this content that are relevant without having to factor this into how that content is designed (user experience, readability, and how content is segmented should build a good audience experience).

On the flip side, and more to the spirit of the question, if you’re creating a spec sheet for a group of speakers, and you leverage the outline to provide context for what the page is about, it’s probably more relevant to your customers than long content that requires them to read passages about each What about the speakers before they can see the wattage of the speakers!

These updates should allow you to think in these terms rather than the format being able to rank in SERPs. However, it is still necessary to pay attention to what Google treats as high quality content and what intentions it thinks users have when performing searches!

3. Is there any special setting you suggest we take to markup SEO on pages behind paywall?

Paypal content has always been a challenge for SEO. There are ways of surfing this content to engines which can be interpreted as a form of anonymity if you don’t tell Google what the site is. Fortunately, this is very easy to do. There is a scheme for that!

Google’s official recommendation for paywall content is to either measure the content (that is, allow a certain amount of free content until you ask to sign up), or use an introduction, which basically lets the user see the first two paragraphs to get familiar with the article’s topic, and then ask them to sign up to read The entire article. Either way, you can let Google crawl the entire depth of the articles.

Regardless of your approach, you need to signal to Google that this is firewall content, so it is not seen as masking or misleading the engine. You can do this using the scheme. Per Google’s guidelines, this will help ensure that Google is able to distinguish between content targeting subscribers and anonymity to trick the engines into the intent of the pages.

It remains to be seen how this can change or evolve with the advent of Passage-based indexing and the launch of MUM, but based on previous developments we expect the guidelines and transparency in communication with Google about Pages’ intent to remain the same.

There is a lot to think about for the coming year. We look forward to partnering with you and helping you realize more value from organic research in 2022 than ever before!

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