SEO Year in Review 2021 and 2022 Predictions

What is up, everybody? And welcome to Hack My Growth. In this video, we’re going to be taking a look back at the year 2021 and how it impacted SEO. We’re going to review some of the predictions I made last year, and I’m going to make some new predictions for the year 2022.

Video Transcript:
SEO Review: My 2021 Predictions

Well, we’re getting to the end of another amazing year, and as we typically do on this channel, we’re going to look back at 2021 and do a year in review, and I’m going to make some 2022 predictions when it comes to the world of SEO.

So the first thing I want to do is look back at 2021, see how I did with my predictions. Now if you disagree with any of my own rankings, please comment below. I’d love to hear your own input to see how I did this year, but since I’m sitting here in my office by myself, I’m going to grade myself.

And the first prediction I had was that we would see an expansion of use of natural language within Google, NLP, NER, and NLU. I also predicted that links would continue to lose their value within the search ranking algorithm. I predicted that we would see a lot of turbulence in the news results, also that we would see an increase in direct answers. And finally, that we would see a rise in search across Google competitors.

Prediction 1: Expansion of NLP, NER, and NLU

So when it comes to the expansion of natural language, name, entity, recognition, natural language understanding, I believe I was dead on with this one. So this year we saw the release of MUM, which is a very advanced model and we have an entire video on MUM, which you can check out on this channel as well, and this is going to allow Google to better understand context across multiple content types. It’s been rolling out. We saw it start to roll out in just a few months ago, and we’re going to see it continue to roll out through next year.

And it’s built off the T5 text to text transfer transformers, and it’s going to be making search really, really cool, and at a whole other level when it comes to what’s going to be able to be done by the users, but also how we can better understand search queries.

Prediction 2: Links Will Lose Their Value

Number two, that links would lose their value. Now I’m going to say partly true. I don’t think it was 100%. Now good links still provide a ton of value. Links are obviously a ranking signal, but spam links did take a major hit in 2021. A lot of times when people do link building, they do it in a very spammy way. We used to do a ton of link building. We have videos on this channel about link building and there’s still value in some cases to doing link building, but we saw three very, very targeted updates for link spams specifically in 2021.

Now I think links are valuable, but I will honestly say even for our agency, there’s a lot of other things that we are seeing provide a lot higher ROI today than links. Links used to be a game-changer back in the day, they are not the same as they used to be, and also, it’s important that not all links are created equal. I’m going to rate myself partly true, but if you disagree with me, please comment below. I would love to have that conversation with you.

Prediction 3: ‘Rank Turbulence’ in the News Results

Rank turbulence in the news results. Well, not only did we see it in news, we saw it across every single channel, so this is just a snapshot of the last 30 days as we’re making this video. And as you can see, we’ve had either high or very high fluctuation for a majority of the last 30 days. There’s only been a few days where it’s been kind of chill. So not only do we see it in the news results, which was true, we’ve also seen it for every other channel across the board for most of the year.

Prediction 4: Increase in ‘Direct Answers’

Increase in direct answers. I’m actually going to rate myself false on this. Now as you can see here, we’re looking at organic versus SERP features, and I looked at specifically SERP features that contained featured snippets because that’s more of a direct answer. And we would see 82.7% of regular organic results in 2020, and you can see here, all these are different types maybe just with featured snippets or with video and people also asked, and see the percentage that it makes up.

We really didn’t see much of a change. It was pretty standard across the board, remained kind of flat. If you want to see that data here specifically and see how the different search results performed, you can go ahead and check out, and you can actually take a look at this and you can change the time of year and all that. It’s really cool.

But as you can see here, when it comes to organic results plus featured snippet, it was 82.6% of the time. This last year, it was 82.7% that it was just organic versus the others. Now we did see some areas, organic featured snippets improve people also asked, so we did see some growth in some other areas, but it wasn’t enough for me to say that yeah, I was 100% right because the organic results plus feature snippets and videos, all these different features, we didn’t really see a massive change across the board, especially if we just take away some of these and we just looked at maybe the feature snippets itself here.

So as you can see here, we’d see 95% of results plus feature snippet versus just the organic itself. And then if we go back and we look, because this data is only from 2020 in November, so I want to make sure I’m doing it at the same time. It’s not a change at all. It’s pretty much flat.

Prediction 5: Rise in Search Across Google Competitors

So a rise across Google competitors. Now I am going to say correct, and the reason why is Google has massive market share. There’s billions of people on the planet using search engines, but they did drop. They dropped from 92.16% to 91.4%, and as you can see, you saw Bing pick up some ground here, saw Yahoo stay flat, because let’s be honest, it’s just not the search engine of choice. Baidu picked up some ground. Duck Duck Go was not as heavy. I thought it would grow a lot more, especially with the amount of advertising they’re doing lately.

And then Yandex actually picked up some steam, but we did see a little bit more fluctuation here. Again, Google is still dominant. We are still looking at 90% market share. But with that being said, we are seeing the competitors start to push back. We saw Bing with some growth here for sure in the last year.

Google’s Significant Changes in 2021

So to say it’s been a very active year on Google’s side would be an understatement, and we’ve had a number of both confirmed and unconfirmed ranking updates throughout the year, and I just put some here as a highlight that we’ve seen up to this point. We’re almost done with the month of December as I’m making this video, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a few more as the year goes out.

It started in January with some unconfirmed updates. February, we saw passage ranking. In April, we had the review ranking. In June, it was extremely active. We had a first core update, we had page experience start and we had two anti-spam updates.

July, we had another core update, we had another link spam update. On the 17th, we saw Google and do the H1 title swap thing. In September, page experience was fully live. We had a number of unconfirmed updates in September and October. And November 3rd, we saw our third anti-spam update and we saw our third core update for the year. And then from November 30th through December 8th, it just recently got confirmed that Google was actually doing a local search update. And then on December 2nd, we had what was called the product review update.

So these are just some of the highlights from 2021, and it’s been a very, very, very crazy year when it comes to SEO. And as you can see, my mind has been blown over and over again by the amount of these updates.

And so as SEOs, we need to pay attention to these updates to make sure that we’re doing the right things, that we have solid foundation, and that we are making sure that our sites are optimized for our users first, but also that the search engines really grasp who we are as a business.

Prediction for 2022

So let’s take a look now at my predictions for 2022.

1. AI and SEO are Here to Stay

The first thing is that AI and SEO are here to stay. MUM has just added another layer to the already very AI-driven space of search, and I expect Google and Bing and the other search engines to continue to push AI further with new capabilities.

I think the biggest use is going to be in topic exploration, and the goal really behind that is to keep people on the search engines longer, to provide them more of a user experience within the search engines where they can jump between different pieces of content, dig deeper right there within the search results.

2. Google will Expand its Own Footprint in Search

I think Google is also going to be expanding its own footprint in search even more. This is something that we’ve been seeing for a few years, and I think they’re going to continue to push this way, especially as we see more multimedia content rank within the search.

So things like YouTube and Google images, all those other Google assets, they’re going to get more visibility within the Search. I mean, Google My Business is really becoming just the ground zero for local companies where you don’t even need to visit their websites anymore.

So SEOs are going to need to branch out and make sure that they are on these other platforms, that they’re optimizing on these other platforms to make sure that they can own visibility across each one of them.

3. Google will Continue with Constant Updates

I think Google’s going to continue with their constant updates. As you saw, there was a ton of updates and those are just a few of the high-level ones that I put on that list within 2021, and I think this is just the norm. I think we’re going to see it in 2022, just as active, if not more. And if you follow the trends, if you keep trying to just beat Google, you’re going to lose out.

You need to make sure that you have a good foundation. You need to follow the webmaster guidelines. We have a video on webmaster guidelines and what you need to do to make sure that your site is foundationally strong.

Follow SEO best practices and provide a ton of value to your users. You’re going to succeed. You’re going to see fluctuation, that’s just the name of the game. But when you play the game the right way, you’re going to win.

4. Google will Expand SERP Features

Number four is I think we’re going to see an expansion in the SERP features, including ads. I think Google is going to add more SERP features within the results to make them more interactive and engaging, which we talked about before. But I also see them using a lot more of this space for advertisement.

In a lot of cases today, you don’t even have an actual organic listing above the fold, you actually have to scroll down behind all those ads at the top, behind any of the knowledge panels on the side, under the featured snippet, and the ‘People Also Ask’, then you get to the organic listings. And so SEOs, as well as advertisers, are going to need to work together to grow visibility within the SERPs.

5. Google will Expand its Knowledge Graph with User Data

Lastly, I think that Google is going to expand its knowledge graph with user data. Now this is a stretch for me for sure, but I think structured data has evolved enough and there’s a lot of people using it and leveraging in the right way that Google can now leverage the linked open data from these sites in order to better inform their own knowledge graph.

I think at some level they’re probably doing this right now, but they want to make sure that that data is trustworthy, authoritative, and coming from an expert (EAT signals).

So as site owners begin to use and publish more linked open data and we become really more of what’s truly a semantic web, I think Google is going to be leveraging this much deeper, and this is going to open the door for site owners who have built structured websites and built structured content to influence not only their knowledge panels, but a lot more features within the search results.

Key Takeaways

So there you have it, guys. We’ve done a recap of 2021. It’s been a crazy year, but I’m also looking forward to seeing all the new changes we’re going to experience in 2022, keeping us on our toes, helping keep the SEO and the search community alive. Because honestly, the more changes there are, the more job protection we all have, and really, the more opportunities we have to grow, expand, and try new things, and that’s what makes this field so interesting and exciting.

If you have any questions about what we talked about today, please comment below. We’d love to continue that conversation with you. Any insight that you want to share with the community, please, let’s have that conversation. Make sure you hit the subscribe button because we create new content each week to help you get the most out of your digital marketing activities. And until next time, happy marketing.

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