On November 17, 2021, Google began rolling out the November 2021 core update, this came about four and a half months after the July 2021 core update, which was a month or so after the June 2021 core update. So we had a total of three broad Google core updates in 2021.
We asked several data companies that track Google’s search results to send us impressions of this update. The results from this data showed that this rollout hit hard within the first 24 hours of the announcement and then slowed fast. Keep in mind, Google has not confirmed that this update is done rolling out yet. Most reports show that there are signs that the November 2021 update was more substantial than the July 2021 update.
The facts. Google began rolling out the November 2021 core update at around 11am on November 17, 2021. This update has not finished yet and is still rolling out as far as we know. We do however expect that the bulk of the impact of this update has been felt in the first day or so after this update, although there may be some residual affects that linger on for the next week or so. The timing of this November core update has a lot of us feeling a bit blind-sighted, as it was released right before the busiest time for most e-commerce sites.
The July 2021 core update started to roll out at around noon on July 1, 2021 and completed on July 12, 2021. The June 2021 core update, as we previously reported, started to roll out around 6:30pm ET on Wednesday, June 2nd. Like all core updates, this was a global update and was not specific to any region, language or category of web sites. It is a classic “broad core update” that Google releases every several months or so. The previous core update before the back-to-back June and July core update combo, was just shy of a six-month wait period, where the December 2020 core update took place on Dec. 3rd.
Other Google updates this year. This year we had a number of confirmed updates from Google and many that were not confirmed by Google. In the most recent order, we had the July 2021 core update, Google MUM rolled out this month, then the June 28 spam update, the June 23rd spam update, the Google page experience update, the Google predator algorithm update, the June 2021 core update, the July 2021 core update, the July link spam update, and the November spam update then a few unconfirmed updates.
Previous core updates. The most recent previous core update was the July 2021 core update which was quick to roll out (kind of like this one) followed by the June 2021 core update and that update was slow to roll out but a big one. Then we had the December 2020 core update ands the December update was very big, bigger than the May 2020 core update, and that update was also big and broad and took a couple of weeks to fully roll out. Before that was the January 2020 core update, we had some analysis on that update over here. The one prior to that was the September 2019 core update. That update felt weaker to many SEOs and webmasters, as many said it didn’t have as big of an impact as previous core updates. Google also released an update in November, but that one was specific to local rankings. You can read more about past Google updates over here.
Data providers on the November 2021 core update:
Semrush. Semrush data showed that the November 2021 core update hit hard and then slowed very quickly in terms of its volatility tracker, as screen captured below or you can view live at the the Semrush Sensor tool.
“This is similar to how the July update rolled out but the return to “normal” levels of fluctuations was even more dramatic here (i.e., less of a “slow down” period compared even to July),” Mordy Oberstein from Semrush told us.
The November update was “far more volatile” than what we saw back in July core update, the company told us. Specifically the November update was 12% more volatile than July core update on the desktop search results and 23% more volatile on mobile search results. So when digging into this update, make sure to check your mobile results, not just your desktop results.
Here is a chart plotting the different between the November and July 2021 core updates by sector:
You can see how the health sector saw 41% more volatility on both desktop & mobile in November 2021 core update than it did back in July 2021 core update. Often, the health sector is more impacted by core updates than some other sectors.
Even more so, 16% of the top 20 results were not listed in the Google Search results prior to the November update. Meaning, 16% of the ranking URLs between positions 1-20 ranked worse than position 20 prior to the update, Semrush said.
And here is a chart of the winners and losers from this November 2021 core update from Semrush:
RankRanger. The RankRanger team also analyzed the Google search results after this November core update rollout. They also found that this update rolled out pretty quickly, although it may not be done yet. Shay Harel from RankRanger said “this update shows similar levels of fluctuations to the July Core update.” But he said this is when you look at the the top three and top ten results. However, the top five results showed substantially higher fluctuations, Shay Harel told us. They also noticed that average changes over the top 20 positions the company saw slightly lower levels than the July core update update.
This chart below shows the changes based on top 3, top 5 and top 10 results:
Also, if you look at the health, finance, retail and travel niches, RankRanger is showing fairly even fluctuations, with the exception of the retail niche. It seems retail saw greater fluctuations in the top three and top five positions, the company told me.
Here is a chart that shows that:
SISTRIX. The folks at SISTRIX, another data provider that tracks the changes in the Google search results sent me their top 20 winners and losers for the November 2021 core update.
Here is a chart comparing some of the websites competing in the dictionary space, seems like these four really saw some big gains with this update:
seoClarity. Mitul Gandhi from seoClarity told us that there is a “large amount of fluctuation lasting a few days,” which he said is common with most Google core updates. The seoClarity team shared some of the biggest changes they saw across some big brands.
For example in the e-commerce niche, Wayfair and eBay stood out to seoClarity with the initial data from November 16th compared to November 18th analysis as having significant drops. But there was a bounce back shortly after for some reason with Wayfair and eBay. Here is a graph from seoClarity of Wayfair’s search visibility:
Walmart and HomeDepot have seen their keywords in top three positions in Google Search increase by 10% and 19% respectively, “boding well for their holiday season,” Mitul Gandhi said. Bed Bath and Beyond saw a 45% jump in their top three positions in Google Search. But those top retailers selling footwear saw a drop, specifically Zappos lost 23% of their top 3 rankings while DSW lost 25%.
In other areas outside of e-commerce, Booking.com saw the strongest improvements in rankings in the seoClairty data set. Between 11/16 and 11/21 they are ranking for around 18,000 more keywords in the top three positions in Google Search. Whereas Skyscanner was the notable decline in travel, losing 23% of their keywords in top 3 positions. SnagaJob.com seems to have lost 60% of their top 3 rankings while SimplyHired.com lost 19%. Car and Driver lost 11% of its keywords in top 3 positions. And Pinterest lost 13% of its top 3 rankings, while Etsy gained 19% in top 3 positions.
Mitul Gandhi from seoClarity told us “don’t panic! Initial fluctuations are not where many will end up as Wayfair and Ebay have shown.” Mitual Gandhi also shared some early data on Twitter this past Friday, but the data above is fresher from its data set.
More on the November 2021 core update
The SEO community. The November 2021 core update like I said above was felt fast and hard. Not just in terms of the ranking impact but the timing. I was able to cover the community reaction in one blog post on the Search Engine Roundtable. It includes some of the early chatter, ranking charts and social shares from some SEOs.
What to do if you are hit. Google has given advice on what to consider if you are negatively impacted by a core update in the past. There aren’t specific actions to take to recover, and in fact, a negative rankings impact may not signal anything is wrong with your pages. However, Google has offered a list of questions to consider if your site is hit by a core update. Google did say you can see a bit of a recovery between core updates but the biggest change you would see would be after another core update.
Why we care. It is often hard to isolate what you need to do to reverse any algorithmic hit your site may have seen. When it comes to Google core updates, it is even harder to do so. If this data and previous experience and advice has shown us is that these core updates are broad, wide and cover a lot of overall quality issues. The data above has reinforced this to be true. So if your site was hit by a core update, it is often recommended to step back from it all, take a wider view of your overall web site and see what you can do to improve the site overall.
We hope you, your company and your clients did well with this update.