Another month, another update – this is the recurring theme for 2021 in the world of SEO! October has experienced some major changes. From five (unconfirmed) algorithm updates and Google conducting some local search tests to changes being made to the Search Quality Raters Guidelines, October was a month full of changes and volatility. We’re here to bring you up to speed and help shed light on areas that may be unclear. Read our recap below!

5 Listing Map Pack Test

It was reported on October 5th that Google was testing out five listings within the local map pack instead of the usual three. There hasn’t been any official statement or confirmation from Google on whether this will be pushed out across the board in the near future, but something to take note of and keep an eye out for with searches within your vertical.

personal injury attorneys SERP

Unconfirmed Algorithm Updates

unconfirmed algorithm updates

Most of the updates that caused notable changes to keyword and traffic performance across industries were a result of unconfirmed or suspected algorithm updates. While Google has not officially released a statement confirming the release of the updates listed below, sensors show high volatility on the dates the suspected updates were released along with chatter amongst SEO experts in the industry seeing significant fluctuations in keyword positioning and organic traffic.

Semrush Study: 2021 Algorithm Update Volatility

Semrush released data showcasing the volatility of this year’s algorithm updates and how they compare to the previous year. The findings are jarring but not surprising considering the impact that most of the industry has seen as a result of the algorithm updates this year. The data shows that the algorithm updates in 2021 have been 28% more volatile for desktop searches and 84% more volatile for mobile searches compared to 2020. So if you’ve been feeling frustrated this year with the obscene amounts of updates being released, you’re not alone. This information is validating!

SEMRUsh levels of rank volatility (desktop)

Desktop Results

SEMRush levels of rank volatility

Mobile Results

Changes Made to the Search Raters Guidelines

Google announced that changes were made to the Search Quality Raters Guidelines (QRG) on October 19th, 2021 (the last update was made on October 14th, 2020). The document has been trimmed down by three pages, making it a total of 172 pages now. Google states that the following updates have been made:

  • Expanded the definition of the YMYL subcategory ‘Groups of people’
  • Refreshed guidance on how to research reputation information for websites and content creators
  • Restructured and updated ‘Lowest Page Quality’ section; reorganized and refreshed examples to reflect new structure
  • Simplified the definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ to remove redundancy with Lowest Page Quality section
  • Minor changes throughout (updated screenshots and URLs, wording, and examples for consistency; removed outdated examples; fixed typos; etc.)

Just as Google releases updates throughout the year to improve the search experience for users, it’s not uncommon for them to update the QRG to better align with the landscape of search and where it’s headed. This is a good time to refresh your understanding of the QRG and ensure that your strategy aligns with the recommendations and best practices. Read through the QRG or download the PDF here!


Google Search Console Index Coverage Report

Several Google Search Console (GSC) users reported that the Index Coverage report was not pulling in data accurately. There were reports of an increased number of pages found in the “Crawled – currently not indexed” section of the report, but when inspected using the URL Inspection Tool, the crawl showed that the URL was “Submitted and indexed.” Naturally, many assumed it was a glitch on Google’s end in the report itself.

However, Google Search Console released a statement explaining that the Index Coverage report is refreshed at slower rates than the URL Inspection Tool, which could be the reason as to why people were seeing those discrepancies in the data. When in doubt, always refer to what the URL Inspection Tool is pulling up in the crawl because it’s the most up-to-date.


Need Help With Your SEO Strategy?

There have been a lot of shifts and updates within SEO, especially in 2021. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. It’s especially difficult for small business owners to keep track of the latest search news and algorithm updates, let alone implementing and testing SEO strategies.

Boostability is here to help! We have been supporting small businesses with affordable SEO for over a decade. And as a leading provider of white label SEO services, we can help support agencies as well with their SEO clients and provide additional support to help their business scale. We work behind the scenes, you take the credit for offering a quality product! Learn more about our white label SEO partner program here.


Maja is the former SEO Manager for the marketing team at Boostability. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Marketing, her focus has been on expanding her knowledge and skill set in SEO. Prior to joining the corporate marketing team at Boostability, Maja gained experience working at several digital marketing agencies in Salt Lake City, focusing on SEO strategy development and fulfillment, as well as client account management. Working closely with clients ranging from small businesses to enterprise organizations, she has managed and executed SEO strategies for over 20 different company websites. Outside of work, Maja loves to go on hikes with her husband and dog, play volleyball, bake and cook, and try new restaurants throughout the city (she considers herself a fry-connoisseur).