It has been a pretty wild couple of years for everyone, including the world of search. As the pandemic started to take over the way business operated in 2020, we saw more and more reliance on search and digital marketing to connect with our audiences. More and more people were forced to stay at home and find ways to buy and interact from inside their home offices. As we began to open up a bit in 2021, many had grown accustomed to some of the conveniences that had come about from the pandemic business pivot. There were more ways to receive groceries, food, and products via online delivery or curbside pickup. Conveniences that were rare before had become common now. As we move into the uncertainty of 2022 there is a lot to be learned from the last two years.
From a search perspective, much has changed as well. 2021 brought massive changes to the Google algorithm like we haven’t seen in years. It also brought more and more changes to the rules and methodologies of running effective Google Ads campaigns as Google continued to remove more and more control from the advertiser, making it even more important to know how to best turn the knobs and push the buttons that help run effective campaigns. For detailed reviews of the year I have offered some reputable sources below, but I also wanted to hit some of the highlights here, especially for small businesses.
- Core Web Vitals: Google had promised up an update on Core Web Vitals, which is mostly focused on speed and user experience. Rewarding sites that load quickly and don’t jump around, etc. on the page. I discussed it a bit on a blog post here. This didn’t hit the small business world too badly from my perspective, though we had time to adjust and work on this prior. Some small businesses with horrible CWV scores probably took a hit, but we did not see a lot of big drops from this in my client base. If you had been ignoring user experience and hadn’t updated your site in years, you may have taken a hit. It is still generally a good idea to be regularly looking at ways to improve site performance. Everything is relative and in the small business world, sometimes there is a slower response to these things. In hyper-competitive areas it would matter more, but in those areas, most key players are already paying close attention and adjusted for this.
- Google Changing Title Tags: Traditionally the title tag is one of the fundamentals of SEO. It is a metatag for each page that tells Google what the page is about and it is also traditionally what shows up as the link in the search engine results page. Having control of this for your page is helpful because you can make tweaks and adjustments to not only better target a search phrase, but to help with click-through rates and grab people’s attention that are searching. Google has greatly increased displaying a title tag algorithmically based on the search and content of the page or webite, taking a bit more control away from the site owner. I talked about it a bit in an earlier post here. It is something you have little control of and the title tag itself is likely still a factor, even if declining in importance, but it is definitely a shift in control.
- Google Reduces Control More in Google Ads: I wrote about this a few times this year. Google reduced the number of actual search terms they would show advertisers that had triggered their ads, making it harder to make decisions based on what people are clicking on. I wrote about ways to combat this earlier this year with even more specific adgroups. They followed up by getting rid the broad match modifier keyword target later in the year. This is essentially the ability to force certain words to be in a search before triggering your ad. Google took control by deciding that these modifier matches would become phrase matches, which allow for more garbage to get in per what Google thinks is relevant, which can be quite wasteful. It becomes more and more important to try to control as much as you can with Google Ads. Google is even threatening to longer support advertiser issues if they don’t officially allow Google to make changes to your Google Ads account that they feel are necessary. To me this is absolutely insane. In what industry do you allow the person you are buying products from to take control of how you spend money with them? In 2022 we already know Google will no longer allow expanded text ads, forcing us to use Responsive ads that again allow Google more control and a black box as to what headlines and descriptions the searchers are actually seeing and acting upon.
- End of Year SEO and Local Search Updates: There were a number of broad core updates in November and December that we are still getting data for. The local update shows to reward proximity even more. I have written about proximity quite a bit in the past. This update typically narrows the map for local search map results and gives more weight to proximity to the searcher or the town searched. It also appears to have reduced the importance of the search term in the name, which has been abused for quite some time. Generally, this appears to be a good update for local businesses that have followed the rules, but may nick some that happened to have legitimate keywords in their business name.
- Google My Business is now Google Business Profiles: Another rebranding, but so far not a huge change to the fundamentals, other than that you can now make edits and updates directly from the search results page if you own th business profile.
For a more detailed dive by some reputable industry sources, please check out some of the 2021 wrap-ups below. For help getting your business going in the right direction in 2022, give us a call and get a plan started.
Reputable 2021 Reviews in Search:
- Search Engine Land: 2021 SEO Review
- Search Engine Journal: 10 Things to know for PPC in 2022
- Glenn Gabe: For Deep Dives into each algorithm update
- Joy Hawkins: Data on the local “vicinity update” concluding in December