Towards the end of 2020, Google’s John Mueller spoke virtually at SMX and reaffirmed many existing thoughts about what the future of search holds.

The presentation can be viewed from the agenda links and registering.

In summary, John’s presentation covered several areas of both how Google’s Search product will be developing, and how they’re working to improve the Search product for websites and platforms that aren’t already optimised for SEO.

Firstly, let’s look at some of the affirmations and tokens of confidence that John has given us.

Technical excellence will have an advantage

Websites with a strong technical SEO foundation, or as John described it, websites that are “technically better” will have an advantage within Google Search.

The extent of the advantage will vary by niche. In some, having a website close to technical SEO excellence could prove to be a significant contributor to success, alongside great content and a user-centric optimisation strategy.

It’s not a secret that having a website that can be crawled, scored, indexed, and retrieved successfully (and efficiently, to reduce the strain on Google’s resources), can yield positive results.

For example, improving the ability for Google to render JavaScript websites will see an almost immediate improvement in crawled and indexed pages. As a result, overall search visibility will improve site performance.

Ultimately, John Mueller’s advice is that technical SEO can be hard, and as a result, you should get help from specialists to resolve any issues you may have. Furthermore, you should seek to identify what Google has described your “critical site metrics”.

This wouldn’t be a post looking forward to 2021 without mentioning Core Web Vitals and Page Experience updates; the latter of which is set to land in May 2021.

Google has gone to great lengths in explaining the metrics, and admit that they may be hard to explain, but also that they are tangible measures.

My note on this is to remember that achieving a good score isn’t a single action. Google has confirmed that as the internet (and websites) advances, the search engine will do the same. The metrics, therefore, reflect the modern user expectations of web experiences.

This is why it’s important to monitor the metrics on an ongoing basis, even if it’s an overview using Google Analytics to pull through data to Google Data Studio with an automated weekly report — as long as the data is collected at a granular level, you can go back in and identify issues at a URL level.

More algorithm & SERP changes are coming, so let’s stop chasing

An unfortunate truth of the internet is that not all websites are built equal, and neither are platforms.  In some niches, there simply isn’t the level of investment or economy for every website to be amazing.

That doesn’t mean to say that these niches are throwaways, as they’re not — there are smaller niche economies that don’t contain businesses that have smaller marketing budgets, and in reality, they don’t need to invest more than other companies in their niche.

Some good platform websites are also optimised in the wrong way, and for this, Google has made efforts to better surface content across websites that are, as they put it, less SEO-savvy than others.

An example of this is passage indexing, which is geared to help surface information buried on long webpages.

I know that passage indexing presents itself as an opportunity to improve CTR and traffic. Still, it is a solution Google has implemented to a user problem that it has determined exists.

This doesn’t, however, mean that the failings in one area of a website are a sure-fire thing that all other websites should look to optimise.

In an interview with Google’s Martin Splitt, by Bartosz Góralewicz of Onely, Splitt was asked whether or not agencies (and software tools), can optimise for passage indexing. In Splitt’s own words:

There will probably be some people who will try to capitalize on this. But I wouldn’t fall for it.

So, in a similar fashion to Artificial Intelligence Optimisation, it can probably be chalked up to the latest attempt to package and brand a new buzz term in place of creating a service differentiation (and betterment) factor.

Google will continue to roll out updates, and in Google’s own words – “some may be difficult to explain”.

So, rather than chasing updates and looking to dissect ups and downs, the primary focus should be on creating a better user experience and optimising for the same SEO best practices.

Mileage will vary across different niches, depending on competition levels and the level of investment that the competition puts into their efforts.

Google will be introducing new ways to surface information within search results, and some will benefit websites following existing best practice guidelines.