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What may Google have planned for the calendar year ahead?

2021 is upon us, and businesses are preparing for the 365 days ahead. As one of them, you are setting goals based on a number of predictions for your industry. But one thing that you may not be considering is what one of your primary customer acquisition channels is going to do. That’s right, Google has some moves of its own in store for 2021 and your company must be ready to adapt. Below are three Google Search predictions will likely become a reality in the weeks and months to come.

3 Google Search Predictions That Your Business Needs to be Ready for in 2021

Prediction 1: Google Will Do What They Said They Will Do

Let us repeat this statement, and with an addendum – Google will do what they said they will do and when they said they will do it. This is an affirmation that unfortunately far too many businesses ignore, even when given fair warning.

Let’s look to the mobile first index from 2018 as a perfect example:

Mobile first index defined: Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will now use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, to better help our (primarily mobile) users find what they’re looking for. Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have historically used the desktop version of your site’s content, which can cause issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version. (Google)

6-months prior to the July 2018 release of their mobile first index Google sent word to webmasters and businesses. This was echoed by digital marketing firms to their clients, warning them that if they did not update their website design they would begin to lose Google search rank to competitors who adapted. Online businesses who shrugged-off the update soon realized that Google was indeed being genuine in their forewarning. Don’t make the same mistake in 2021.

Last month, Google set a firm deadline for businesses to update their websites for the impending Page Experience update. You have until May 2021 to make the updates or you will likely experience a drop in Search rank. Here is everything you need to know about the Google Page Experience update which arrives in 120 days after this NYE.

Prediction 2: Putting More Prominence on Searcher Location

One educated way to make a prediction about what Google is going to do in the near future is to look at their recent patent awards. Once they receive a given patent, an update to the way they deliver search results often follows within a year’s time.

On October 13 2020, Google was awarded the patent for “Providing Results to Parameterless Search Queries“. You can view the details from the United States Patent & Trademark Office here, but allow us to provide a quote from the patent itself:

“This document describes techniques, methods, and systems for providing results to a parameterless search query on a mobile computing device (e.g., a cellular telephone, smart telephone, a PDA, a portable media player, etc.). A parameterless search query is a search query that queries a mobile computing device for information that is relevant to a user, but where the user does not provide any parameters to further specify what is relevant to the user at a given time. Instead, a parameterless search query puts on the mobile computing device the onus of determining what the user is likely to deem relevant. To provide an indication of relevance to a user, a mobile computing device can examine a current context within which the mobile computing device and/or the user of the mobile computing device exist at the time the parameterless search query is received (which, as discussed here, can occur by the computing device acting on its own or in combination with a computer server system).” 

Here’s another notable snippet from the patent:

“For example, assume that a mobile computing device is moving with a user on a highway who is travelling at speed during rush hour on a workday (e.g., Monday-Friday). If the user submits a parameterless search query to the mobile computing device, the device can examine its current context (travelling on the highway during rush hour) and infer that the user would like to receive traffic information for the stretch of highway ahead. The mobile computing device can infer parameters for the search query (e.g., traffic conditions and highway number), identify results for the search query (e.g., expect to encounter stop-and-go traffic in two miles), and provide the results to the user (e.g., activate a speaker on the mobile device and audibly transmit the traffic conditions to the user).”

Now allow us to sift through the jargon for you. What this all means, is that the location of a searcher (your customer?) and the corresponding context will play an even more important role in how they receive search results on their mobile device.

Is there anything your business can do to prepare for this? Absolutely. For one, make sure that your company name, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent on ALL online directories and social networks, matching the contact information that you have on your website.  In addition, complete your Google My Business profile and establish your service area and update it weekly as new content is added to your website. And when it comes to this content (new pages, blog posts, etc.) be sure to reference your local area market in the text as Google makes semantic associations between topics and geographic location of readers. Lastly, garner as many positive Google Reviews as you can from satisfied customers/clients. All of this will help you rank better on both Google Maps and traditional search results when users are performing search from their mobile devices outside of the home/office environment.

Prediction 3: The Return of Authors as Authorities

Years ago Google Authorship (a part of their 2007 Agent Rank patent) was considered to be a search engine ranking factor. Articles produced and published by writers with established Authorship often received higher ranking status than those without. This was disbanded in 2014, which caused an uproar in the SEO community as Authorship Rank helped ensure the delivery of qualified and expert-level content in Google Search.

Fast forward to March 2020 and we find that Google filed a patent titled “Generating Author Vectors”. Upon reading through this patent, we find many similarities to Google Authorship (2007-2014) but with some interesting caveats:

“Particular embodiments of the subject matter described in this specification can be implemented so as to realize one or more of the following advantages. An author vector that effectively characterizes an author can be generated from text written by the author without the text being labeled. Once generated, the author vector can characterize different properties of the author depending on the context of use of the author vector. By clustering the author vectors, clusters of authors that have similar communication styles and, in some implementations, personality types can be effectively be generated. Once generated, the author vectors and, optionally, the clusters can be effectively used for a variety of purposes.”

What this tells us, is that while we can expect to see content quality being attributed to certain authors, those authors will not be named as they were with Google Authorship. Instead, highly sophisticated neural network systems will be able to identify online authors based on their writing style. Presumably this will be matched with content quality, which considers accuracy of statements along with how well said articles perform organically. The latter may consider click-through-rates, bounce rate, time spent on page, and other analytical indicators of content relevancy and quality.

How can your business possibly capitalize on this update should it see fruition in 2021? Though content consistency. Not only must your website update with fresh high-quality and useful (to readers) content on a weekly basis, authorship must be consistent. Use the same writer or tight-knit editorial staff to deliver this content each week, assuming they have the appropriate skill set when it comes to writing with SEO best practices in mind.

This is a long game prediction and play, but one that will payoff as your site’s content is deemed an authority for your industry.

Need help adapting to the Google Search eventualities of 2021? Contact Strategis Consulting Group today for a FREE consultation.

Guest Author: Marcus Maraih