September 2021 SEO News Recap

Carolyn Wilborn SEO Content Author

Google Page Title Update

Google officially announced that they had changed the way they handle page titles in the organic search results. As we mentioned, Google has a long history of making changes to how page titles appear in the search engine results page (SERP), typically based on the search query. With this new update, Google says their system is aimed at “producing titles that work better for documents overall, to describe what they are about, regardless of the particular query.”

Instead of focusing on queries, Google is looking for alternative text on a given page if the system feels like the designated page title (if there is one) is too boilerplate, too long, or is stuffed with keywords. In real-world examples, we’ve seen a lot of content in H1s and other heading tags being used as titles in the SERPs. However, some SEOs have provided examples of page titles being shortened, link text being used as a title, and other unexpected HTML being chosen.

What does this mean for you? John Mueller of Google has said that page title changes only affect what’s shown in the search results and do not affect rankings. But Google changing your titles could have an impact on your clickthrough rate, especially if what’s shown doesn’t have the appeal of the title you created.

There is no way to prevent Google from making changes to page titles at this time. Our best recommendations:

  • Make sure your titles aren’t too long; aim for 50-60 characters.
  • Avoid generic titles like “home” or “untitled.”
  • Write titles that clearly describe what the page is about and don’t keyword stuff.
  • Think about how you’re using heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) and other visually distinct copy on the page. Make sure this text is also useful and informative should it be shown on the SERP.

We also encourage you to talk to your SEO team about title best practices. If you’d like to schedule an analysis of your site, reach out to the ROI SEO Team.

Read the Google announcement, an article on how Google is responding to feedback on this update, and a useful analysis from Dr. Pete at Moz.

Business being good isn’t always a good thing. Shipping, inventory, and fulfillment are the basic underpinnings of a business that must work flawlessly for marketing & advertising to be worth it – and they are all in flux right now.

We keep this blog post updated with the information you need to stay in the loop with the supply chain crisis. Read the latest news today & bookmark this article for easy access to stay informed!

Page Experience Update Complete

We’ve seen a lot of updates from Google in the past few months, including the Page Experience update, which began rolling out in June. As of September 2nd, the update is fully live for Google Search and Top Stories. Google has said that major ranking shifts were not expected with this update, but we encourage all our readers to continue to work with their SEO team to improve their Core Web Vitals.

Google Indexing Bug Tool Available to English Users

While there are many reasons why a page (or a whole site) might not be indexed, Google sometimes does experience bugs that prevent sites from being indexed correctly. A major mobile indexation bug occurred in September and October 2020 and affected 0.2% of the index – that’s millions of pages. After a pilot program began earlier this year, Google has now made their reporting tool for indexing bugs available to all users. The tool can be used by anyone worldwide, but it only accepts reports in English from verified Search Console accounts.

You can get to the reporting tool from the Index Coverage report page or the URL Inspection Tool page, but you must be logged into Search Console to access the tool.

Reminder: Create Dedicated Pages for Seasonal Sales

It’s been one of our most common recommendations to clients for years, and as we approach the holiday season, it’s time for a reminder: create dedicated pages for your seasonal sales. This was called out by Google in a July blog post and re-emphasized by John Mueller in a recent tweet. In that Twitter thread, John answered several questions about what to do with seasonal sale pages when the sale is over, recommending leaving them indexed but making them less prominent on the page.

When you create seasonal sale pages, handle them with care. If you’ll have a sale every year for Black Friday, for example, it’s better to have one evergreen page that gets updated yearly rather than creating a new one each year – you’ll preserve the link equity and other value that single page has built over time. And make sure that any limited-time sales include clear dates; a sale that “ends Saturday” could mean anything, depending on when a user visits the page.

Search Console Data Loss

Speaking of Google Search Console, don’t panic if you notice an unexpected drop in your Performance report between August 23rd and 24th. The search engine has reported that an “internal problem caused a data loss in Search and Discover performance” during this time period. The data is not expected to be backfilled.

Check out the Performance Reports section of Data anomalies in Search Console for more details. You can also read more at Search Engine Land.

Google: Be Prepared for Search Intent Changes

One area where Google has been very focused recently is on understanding searcher intent. What do you really want when you search for something in Google?

For example, if you search for “mac and cheese,” do you want a recipe, a local restaurant that features this dish, or a history of how it was invented? And intent changes over time – in the fall of 2019, someone searching for “masks” might have wanted ideas for Halloween rather than face masks to wear to the grocery store.

As a result, the search engine results page is often changing as Google tries to figure out what most people are looking for with their search right now. Preparing for this type of constant change is a challenge. So what’s a website owner or SEO to do?

In a conversation on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller advised “hedging” against changing intents by creating different types of content to meet each need. In other words, if an important keyword is shifting between transactional and informational intents, you should have both an ecommerce page for people looking to buy and an article about the topic for those who want to learn more. That way, you’re covering both bases.

Read more about the discussion at Search Engine Roundtable.

It’s OK If Google Keeps Trying Your Redirects

Google’s Gary Illyes said months ago that site owners should keep redirects in place for at least a year – and longer if possible. Recently, John Mueller responded to a related tweet from someone asking why Googlebot kept crawling pages that had been redirected more than a year ago.

John responded that this is completely normal, and that although the frequency with which those pages are crawled would decline considerably over time, it still happens. He also said that this will have no impact on SEO in general.

Another hat-tip to Search Engine Roundtable.

“How Search Works” Portal Updated

Google’s How Search Works portal was originally launched in 2016 and has been updated several times since then – including a full redesign in late August of this year. Google’s Danny Sullivan published a blog post highlighting the history of the website and what information can be found there, including the fact that Google made 4,500 improvements in Search in 2020.

If you have questions about Google Search, this is a great place to start!

Reminder from Google: A “Site:” Search Doesn’t Show All Pages

Do you ever monitor the indexation of your site by doing a “site:” search in Google? You can do so by typing “site:www.example/com” (with your domain name in place of “”) into a Google search to see how many pages are listed and how they appear in the SERPs.

In a recent episode of the Ask Googlebot video series on YouTube, Google’s John Mueller reminded site owners that a “site:” query is not designed to be used for diagnostic purposes. According to Mueller:

“This query limits the results to a specific website. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive collection of all the pages from that website.”

For an accurate picture of how many pages Google has indexed, you should use Google Search Console and look at the “Submitted and indexed” and “Indexed, not submitted in sitemap” categories in the Coverage Report.

You can watch Mueller’s complete answer on YouTube.

Google Shopping Update

Two pieces of news on Google Shopping this month:

1. First, from Search Engine Journal, Google is now allowing annotations for special promotions related to shipping and returns. These annotations can include delivery dates (“Get it by Dec. 24”) or shipping times (“Free 2-day shipping”), as well as specific dates for return times (“Free returns until Jan 31”). You will need an active Merchant Center account and account-level shipping settings configured for special shipping promotions, among other requirements.

2. In mid-September, Google started to enforce the requirement for unique product identifiers (UPIs) in Merchant Center feeds for free listings. Product variations using the same GTIN will be subject to disapproval. Read the Google announcement.

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