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Google Updates Q1 2021 – Passage Ranking Algorithm, Hotel Ads Organic Meta Listings and More

Mar 31, 2021   |   Web Design and Promotion
Google Updates Q1 2021

We’re back with our quarterly Google update as we always are to ensure your business knows what’s the latest with the search engine giant and where they are heading, so you’re perfectly paced in the digital eco space. We’ll start with the key algorithm updates in Q1 2021, show you the latest search features, and tell you what’s next.

Google Algorithm Updates:

Google carried out two unconfirmed algorithm updates on 10th March and 17th February which resulted in search ranking fluctuations but the biggest update in Q1 was the Passage Ranking Algorithm. The search giant announced that by using the SMITH algorithm they have officially rolled out the Passage Ranking algorithm. While the BERT algorithm is limited to understanding the context of words in a sentence, the Passage Ranking algorithm gives Google the ability to understand the intent of the query and match it with the context of sentences strung within a passage. This now allows Google to pick out good content in bad page structure and offer relevant answers to long-tail queries on search.

 Google Search Features:

  1. Organic meta listings added to Hotel Ads section

To boost the visibility of hotels and compete with Online Travel Agencies dominating the Hotel Ads section, Google launched the organic meta listings section just under the paid section for hotels. Giving travelers a wider range of options to choose from as well, hotels with a Hotel Center Account (set up via a connectivity partner) will be displayed in this section to improve direct clicks to their websites and reduce dependency on OTAs.

Organic meta listings added to Hotel Ads section
  • Manage Reviews tool

For businesses with a GMB account, Google has now rolled out a tool to Manage Reviews. Using this, the business can view its most recent reviews as well view the status of reviews that the business wished to take down. However, the feature is currently limited to a certain number of business locations and reviews that it can display using the tool.

Manage your reviews
  • Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) to become the norm

Keeping the COVID-19 Pandemic in mind and the fluctuating search trends, Google has said that Responsive Search Ads will now become the norm. Using RSAs, advertisers can submit multiple variations of headlines and ad copies, and using machine learning and automation, the most relevant Ad copy and headline will be displayed to improve the performance of the campaign.

  • Image search update – Reduce duplication

While Google announced this update in November 2020, they officially rolled out the update in February 2021. With this update, Google promises reduction of duplication of images in the search results and provide a more distinct platter of images to ensure relevance to the query.

Image search update – Reduce duplication
  • Business years displayed in Local Pack results

To improve trust with customers, Google has now started displaying the ‘years in business’ in the Local Pack of the business.

  • Suspension of merchant sites that display higher room rates at checkout

To improve the trust of users online, Google has stated that as of 6 April 2021, they will start suspending merchant sites that display higher rates at the point of checkout from what’s displayed on the landing page or in the business ad.

  • Price drop rich result displayed

Using the ‘Offer’ schema or structured data, Google will now display the price drop as a rich result. Google will calculate the price difference based on the structured data changes made to the product in order to display the offer or reduced price.

Price drop rich result displayed
  • New Performance Reporting on Google My Business

One week into 2021, Google launched the new performance reporting for GMB to give business the ability to track their performance for a specific period of time and view profile interactions, how users discovered their business, etc.

  • Updated direction interface

Based on the destination the user wishes to travel to and their eco-friendly approach, Google will now display different modes of transports and the time it will take using each mode using a toggle, ensuring that users don’t have to use different tabs to view the modes of transport. For example, if taking the subway is the quickest, it will display that option first followed by bike, car, by foot, and so on.   

What’s next on Google in 2021?

Here are the big features the search engine is going to roll out in the coming months:

  1. Pickup and delivery attributes and indoor live view

With curbside pick-up becoming a preferred option during the pandemic, later in the year Google is planning to add detailed pickup and delivery options to the GMB profile of a business. If the store has curbside pickup, it will be shown and Google will even notify the customer when to leave and where to park to make the pickup seamless. Users will also be able to view delivery options such as minimum order for a delivery, delivery partners, and delivery windows. Using the Indoor live view users can take a quick walk through prominent locations (malls, airports, subways) using augmented reality.

  • Core Web Vitals – Google’s next official ranking factor

This is probably or definitely going to be Google’s biggest update in 2021 and they’ve given businesses sufficient time to prepare for this ranking factor which will be rolled out in May 2021. Also called the Page Experience signal, Google will rank a website based on the experience it offers to the website visitor. Websites will be judged on 3 parameters Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

To ensure your business has the perfect Core Web Vitals solution to rank better on search and offer your customers the best user experience, contact us at [email protected] or call us at 408-200-2211. Our Local and schema solutions will boost the relevance of your business on search and ensure that you’re paced with latest search trends and Google updates.

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