There was no official update of Google’s algorithm in May 2021, but continued reports of regular, important changes to search results. Google did, however, reveal new AI technology that may well revolutionize search in the future. Staff from Google also spent a lot of time explaining the new page experience ranking signal that includes Core Web Vitals as we count down to the launch of this ranking update in June.
Happy MUM Day!
A lot of countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May (although here in France it was the last Sunday in May), but May 18th may go down as “MUM Day” worldwide. On this date Sundar Pichai announced the existence of MUM at his Keynote speech for Google O/I (more about this event below) and it was also covered in this article by vice-president Pandu Nayak.
MUM, which stands for “Multitask Unified Model,” may shake up search results in the years to come. It is AI technology similar to BERT in that it helps Google better understand user queries and web page content. Nayak says that MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT at what BERT does. It is also multimodal in that it will be able to interpret images, audio and video content as well as text. MUM is also already enabled in 75 different languages and can write as well as read text.
Using this technology, Google hopes to be able to provide answers to complex user questions by drawing on information found on the web. In the example given in his article, Nayak suggests that information that exists only in Japanese on the web could be used to provide answers in English.
The article suggests that Google will also provide pointers to helpful articles, videos and images from across the web when answering queries, but there are fears that as Google moves towards becoming an AI-driven “answer engine,” it may provide fewer links and traffic to websites.
Dubious Developments and Suspicious Shifts
Marie Haynes has been reporting on what appear to be unconfirmed algorithm updates since the beginning of 2021 on her Google Algo Updates page. Recognizing that these are probably not algorithm updates in the way Panda or Penguin were, she said during a podcast that her team was looking for a better name to describe these changes and suggestions included “Dubious Developments” and “Suspicious Shifts.”
Marie is also slowly arriving at the conclusion that most of these ranking changes are linked to Google “getting better at understanding intent and relevancy” and our theory is that some technological advances behind Google MUM may already be in action. Better understanding of text can improve search results thanks to a better understanding of queries but also by evaluating the quality of pages that either rank in search results or that provide backlinks.
Marie reports a “big update” around Mother’s Day, May 9th (which may just be a coincidence) with a “significant shift” occurring on May 13-15 and “turbulence” on May 17-22. Marie believes the May 13th update may be linked to links and the May 17-22 update linked to a Knowledge Graph update as reported by Kalicube’s Knowledge Graph Sensor.
Search sessions at Google I/O
Held over three days from May 18th to 20th, Google I/O 2021 was a virtual version of the annual event for developers working on Google products. A number of sessions concerned Google Search this year and a majority concerned the new page experience ranking factors (including Core Web Vitals) that will launch in June:
- What’s new in Search? with John Mueller
- Immersive storytelling on the web with Wei Hong and Ryan Warrender
- Preparing for page experience signals with Jeffrey Jose and Naina Raisinghani
- What’s new in Web Vitals with Annie Sullivan and Elizabeth Sweeny
- The business impact of Core Web Vitals with Swetha Gopalakrishnan and Saurabh Rajpal
- Ask Me Anything : Web Vitals with John Mueller, Annie Sullivan, Elizabeth Sweeny and Philip Walton
As well as the news on Google MUM, takeaways from I/O include that page experience ranking will be launched on desktop too and suggestions that website owners can get improved ranking from improving Core Web Vital scores even if they do not pass all three tests (LCP, FID and CLS). More about Core Web Vitals in our recent article, but just a reminder that the launch of the page experience update has been postponed from May to June 2021 for mobile.
Google’s Developer Advocate, Martin Splitt, also gave last-minute advice to website owners about Core Web Vitals via Search Engine Journal Show on May 20th. Mainly to tell web owners not to panic nor put all their resources into getting a Core Web Vitals pass. Although he does remind us that making your website faster is important and that some people are seeing benefits from improving their page speed now, even before page experience ranking is launched.
Last-minute tips for the page experience update from Martin Splitt https://youtu.be/mjCo-JXybk4
After launching its Rich Results Testing Tool in July 2020, Google said it was going to discontinue its original structured data testing tool in the near future. After some reaction to that news, Google finally decided to make their code for their data testing tool open source and this has allowed the Schema.org to release the same tool as the Schema.org Validator. Launched on May 11th in beta, this may become your go-to tool for testing Schema markup. A lot of news around AI insists heavily on the importance of structured data, so we strongly suggest you start implementing schema in your site if you have not already done so.
SEOPress lets you add relevant structured data to pages and posts using the Schema.org vocabulary. Our 4.7 update, released in May, added the How-To schema to the list of supported structured data types. We also added improvements to the way automatic schemas can be programmed as well as new properties for existing schema:
- Speakable property for Article schema
- ReviewBody property for Review schema
- Menu and acceptsReservations properties for Local Business schema
- Video property for Recipe schema
- Author property (custom) for Article schema
- Start Date Timezone, Organizer Name and Organizer URL properties to Event schema
Remember to keep your SEO plugin for WordPress up to date and good luck with the page experience update!