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Google November Core Update Is Over – What Happened?

Google's November 2021 Core Update has finished rolling out. Here's how it impacted websites, according to insight from search marketers.

Google November Core Update Is Over – What Happened?

It’s official, Google’s November core algorithm update is complete. Sites that experienced an upward or downward shift in rankings should not expect any major ranking changes until the next algorithm update.

Google made the announcement on Twitter that the core update has finished rolling out.

It’s possible that changes in traffic around the time of the algorithm might not be related to the update. Coincidences do happen but it’s a slim hope.

The changes seen today are likely to stay in place until the next update. Until then, there should only be the daily up and down in rankings that are characteristic of a constantly updated search index.

Unlike in the past where the search index remained fixed for months at a time, today’s search rankings are more dynamic and responsive to links and content.

What doesn’t change is the underlying processes themselves.

What Was The November Update?

Search Community Shares Insights

Many search marketers agree that the November core algorithm update did not have the disruptive impact of a major update.

Japan-based SEO Kenichi Suzuki (@suzukik)

Kenichi Suzuki, a respected Japanese search marketer, offered his observations of the impact to Google search results in Japan.

Suzuki shared:

“The November 2021 Core Update seems to have made much less impact on rankings, compared with other core updates.

The ranking changes are not that different than daily fluctuations.

That said, we’ve seen Google look at who (author/company) publishes the content more carefully.”

Jason Barnard (@jasonmbarnard)

Jason Barnard noticed wild fluctuations in Google’s Knowledge Graph on November 16, the day before the update:

Is that related to the update that would be released on the following day?

Nobody knows for certain but it’s an interesting sideshow accompanying the main event.

Barnard offers his thoughts on what happened in the Knowledge Graph:

“Here we had Google announce a core update on the 17th of November and the knowledge graph went crazy beginning the day before.

There was also a “deepening” of the Knowledge Graph that same day (ie queries returned 6% more results on average…).

That number had not changed for at least 2 years. So that 6% is big news.”

Ammon Johns (@Ammon_Johns)

I asked widely respected search marketer, Ammon Johns, about the update.

Johns shared:

“There’s no single unifying theme (yet), no suddenly recurring problem or symptom surfacing in the various SEO groups.

Only the ongoing mass of issues many smaller site owners had in the weeks running up to the update where crawling was reduced, and sites with lower crawl priorities found they couldn’t get their new content indexed.”

Johns is referencing the growing concern in the worldwide search marketing community about how Google seems to be indexing less content.

That’s something that began peaking in October 2021 and continues to be a source of anxiety for many publishers.

Steven Kang (@SEOSignalsLab)

Steven Kang is the administrator of the wildly popular SEO Signals Lab Facebook community. His community has thousands of members and countless discussions every day. If anyone has the pulse of the search community on social media, it’s Steven Kang.

Here is what Steve observed about the core update:

“I’m seeing mixed results. Some went up and some down. I’m not seeing the seismic difference…”

Jim Boykin (@jimboykin) – Founder of Internet Marketing Ninjas

Jim Boykin has been in SEO for over 20 years and one thing I have observed about Jim is that he’s open minded to changes and is quick to adapt, which to me makes his opinions matter all the more.

These are Boykin’s observations on Google’s November update:

“We had 12 clients that had really nice ranking/traffic improvements, and about 25 clients that didn’t see much either way, and we had 7 clients that saw a bit of a drop. About 5 of the 7 that dropped fell 1-3 ranking positions lower. Two of those seven had bigger drops.

Overall, this is just another algo update… there will always be winners and losers each time… I just try to keep making the sites better and stress doing that to those who were negatively effected.”

Bill Hartzer (@bhartzer)

Bill Hartzer, another search marketer with over 20 years of experience concurred with the observation that this update had a small impact.

Hartzer observed:

“I feel as if it’s been a low impact update.”

Was The November 2021 Core Update Partially An Infrastructure Change?

This update is generally regarded by many in the search industry to have been relatively mild. That in itself is interesting because it could suggest a shift in the underlying algorithm architecture where it still does the same thing, relatively speaking, but does so more efficiently.

The core algorithm update was preceded by a spam update, which presumably cleared the table of negative influences to the search index, to make the search index more pure and less spam.

FLAN Machine Learning Research Paper

Coinciding with this update is a research paper published by Google AI with research on new machine learning models, which do not target one thing in particular.

That’s a notable change from previous models that did one thing really well and required an army of multiple models to do all these different things.

One such model is called FLAN that was introduced as a research paper in October. What FLAN does is focus natural language training on solving different kinds tasks, and then generalizing the method so that it can apply to a wide variety of tasks.

 

Read More: FLAN: Google Research Develops Better Machine Learning

Google Introduced Pathways, A New AI Architecture

The November core algorithm update began on November 17 and finished nearly two weeks later on November 30.

If Google were to introduce a new, more efficient way to accomplish the same thing it was already doing, then that might require reducing the amount of spam in search results with a spam update, and then introducing the new algorithm architecture slowly across the entire system.

Perhaps not coincidentally, around the same time as the FLAN research was published, Google officially announced a new AI Architecture called Pathways that seems to do many of things that FLAN claims to improve on.

The Google Pathways announcement states:

“Too often, machine learning systems overspecialize at individual tasks, when they could excel at many.

That’s why we’re building Pathways—a new AI architecture that will handle many tasks at once, learn new tasks quickly and reflect a better understanding of the world.

….Today’s AI models are typically trained to do only one thing.

Pathways will enable us to train a single model to do thousands or millions of things.”

One thing to note is that the Pathways article, published in October, refers to things they are going to build, not to things that they have already introduced.

So it’s entirely possible that Pathways was not introduced in the November 2021 core algorithm update.

Ammon Johns Is Reminded of Hummingbird Update

Ammon Johns remarked that the November 2021 core algorithm update felt like an infrastructure update.

Johns shared his thoughts:

“I’m reminded a bit of the Hummingbird Update, where it had actually been live for a couple of months or something like that before the news broke, and nobody had noticed.”

I agree with Johns. In general terms, the November update had a relatively gentle impact on the search results.

And that is what makes it feel like an infrastructure related update that makes Google’s algorithms more efficient.

Google November 2021 Core Update Takeaways

I think most people would agree that Google’s core update was somewhat odd.

  • Suzuki feels that Google was focusing a little more on authorship signals.
  • Barnard noticed extreme volatility in the Knowledge Graph, sharing that Google was returning 6% more knowledge graph-based results. Jason says a 6% increase is huge and a scale he’s never seen before.
  • Johns feels, like I do, that the quiet nature of this update might indicate that Google made more infrastructure-related changes.
  • Social media has been relatively quiet this update, suggesting that whatever impact it had was not widely felt in the way that a major update would feel.
  • Lastly, Google published an article and a research paper that both signal improvements to Google’s algorithms that can dramatically speed up current question answering tasks and in the future greatly increase Google’s ability to answer more complex questions.

Source: Google Search Liaison On Twitter

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Roger Montti

Owner at Martinibuster.com

Roger Montti is a search marketer with over 20 years experience. I offer site audits, phone consultations and content and ... [Read full bio]

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