December’s most discussed SEO story was the Products Reviews Update for English language search results, which followed on from a previous update in April 2021. Google also rolled out a significant Local search update between Nov 30-Dec 8 and released their annual “Top Searches” recap.
In other Google news, we saw high ranking volatility in December, with SEMRush sharing a graph indicating that this has been the most volatile month of 2021 for Google search. John Mueller shared some insights and clarifications around a variety of topics including nofollow link attributes, crawl budget, and whether Google updates typically impact content in all languages. Google Ads announced some policy changes for Election and Political ads, ahead of the ramp-up to the 2022 midterms here in the USA.
In addition, Google has been busy rolling out a number of new features and testing others, including a new map and local interface, enhanced autocomplete, new Top Stories design and a new Suggested Clips video feature snippets layout, while Bing has been testing a feature for translating queries and Bing Shopping announced the launch of its Shopify integration.
And for a bit of seasonal fun, John Mueller also shared a year-end 2021 meme roundup via Twitter thread, compiled by Search Engine Roundtable as The John Mueller Meme Report 2021.
December’s Top Stories
Google Product Reviews Update: For almost the entire month of December, SEOs have been buzzing about the announced 3 week rollout of Google’s latest Products Reviews Update (PRU) (which follows on from a similar update in April). The update was targeted mainly at websites that post articles reviewing products (e.g. content targeting queries like “best laptops under $500”). Google also announced that they were introducing two new requirements for product reviews: evidence that the product was used by the reviewer, and multiple buying options. So far the update has only affected English language content, although it will likely roll out to other languages. Early analysis saw volatility, although the initial speculation was that this was primarily due to the tail end of November’s core update rather than the PRU specifically. Within the first week, however, volatility continued to be high and looked to be more impactful than April’s update. On Dec 21, Google confirmed that the rollout was complete.
Google Local Search Update: on Dec 16, Google confirmed that there had been a Local Search update which began Nov 30 and was rolled out through Dec 8. This update overlapped with other updates and a Google map and local pack design change. The update seemed to focus on changes around proximity and distance, earning the nickname the “Vicinity Update”. It had a significant impact in local search rankings.
Google recaps Top Searches of 2021: on Dec 8, Google shared its annual Year in Search, recapping search trends in 2021. We saw themes related to getting through this second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, high profile news story topics and popular tv shows like Squid Game and WandaVision were high on the list (apparently Netflix had a good year in search – 3 of the top 5 TV shows searched in 2021 were shows launched on Netflix). Search Engine Journal also pulled out some of the more long-tail insights, including the top “How To” searches, recipe searches, and “this or that” (unsurprisingly, “Pfizer or Moderna” and “Cold or COVID” feature in this section).
You can watch Google’s “Year in Search” video here.
Read on for our roundup of what else is new in search this month:
Industry News and Updates
- Semrush: December The Most Volatile Month For Google Search Of 2021
- Dec 13: Google Search Ranking Tracking Tools Continue Showing Major Volatility
- Dec 16: Google not indexing or crawling or serving new content (addressed after about 7 hours downtime)
- December 19: Google Search Ranking Algorithm Tremors Continue & It’s Big
- December 27-28: Google Search Ranking Algorithm Jolt?
- Google algorithm updates 2021 in review: Core updates, product reviews, page experience and beyond
- SEO 2021 in review: Endless updates, title rewrites, GMB becomes GBP and more
- John Mueller: Most Of Google’s Search Algorithms Work For All Languages But Not All
- John Mueller: No, Google Doesn’t Use Google Analytics 4 For Ranking Purposes
- Google: No Difference In SEO Value Between Nofollow, UGC Or Sponsored Link Attributes
- Bing Shopping Buy Now Integration With Shopify & Ethical Shopping
- John Mueller: 100,000 URLs Usually Won’t Impact Crawl Budget
- DuckDuckGo to launch a desktop browser
- John Mueller: We Look At Language On A Per Page Basis, Not Site Wide Basis
- Google Search launches enhanced autocomplete with second column
- Google: We Won’t Penalize Your Site For Not Nofollowing Affiliate Links
- Bing Tests Translating Your Query
- Google Search Testing Empty Design Search Box; Called Edge To Edge
- Google May Finish Mobile-First Indexing Switch Over By July 2022
- Google rolling out new map and local interface in search
- Google Is Creating A New Core Web Vitals Metric
- Googlebot Not Crawling Over HTTP/3 Yet
- Google Tests New Suggested Clips Video Feature Snippets Layout
- Google rolling out new Top stories design on desktop
- Google Image Search Tests Latest Section For New Images
- Google Ads Election & Political Ad Policy Changes For 2022
- Healthcare Providers Add Insurance & Languages To Google Business Profile
GSC and BWT Updates
- GSC: Google Search Console’s Link Report Not A Priority For Google
- GSC: Google Search Console inaccessible for some users
- GSC: Google Review Snippets rich results report updated
- GSC: Google Experiences Internal Issues During Indexing