Search Engine Mechanics shift in 2021

Important piece of information about the search engine core update, particularly Google, has been revealed this December 2020.

What kind of changes will this deliver, and what this means to website owners? We would like to present this topic through the perspective of different SEO experts and online marketeers.

A shift in the search engine ranking algorithms

Over the course of a number of recent Google updates they have shifted their focus from ranking factors and to advanced means of query and web page content deduction.

Some even believe that, in order to disable those who wish to reverse-engineer and exploit search engine algorithms, Google has added a randomization factor to search results.

This may not be true as specific algorithm features are difficult to detect and credit as the reason behind a page ranking.

Search Engine
Google NC data center via Street View – Search Engine

On the other hand, it is relatively easy to credit backlinks, EAT or user experience as the reason for website high or low ranking, while we may be wrong and the real culprit would be BERT or other more sophisticated algorithms.

Search engines are becoming more “intelligent” and we can all agree that the substantial web page ranking changes are the consequence of more sophisticated methods for page ranking such as natural language processing.

Search engine updates that nobody noticed?

Understandably, we are only humans, and some search engine updates did go unnoticed, for example BERT was one of them.

Another algorithm that was presented in a Google Research paper in 2020 is SMITH and, in short, it can be considered as an improved version of BERT as it is able to understand long-form content (long pages).

What would happen if Google added SMITH and would SEO experts be able to detect and quantify its actions?

The mentioned paper states that BERT and similar algorithms have achieved amazing results with performing their intended tasks though they are limited to a relatively short text segments because of the overall    computational complexity.

This is the main reason why Siamese Multi-depth Transformer-based Hierarchical (SMITH) algorithms will eventually replace BERT, to a total text input size of 2048.

The main reason why we are mentioning this is because the December 2020 update to Google algorithms does indeed possess some non-observable changes, therefore some would believe that it is possible they have added or updated AI algorithms.

It may be possible that we can expect the introduction of a more sophisticated ranking factor in 2021.

Initial effect of December 2020 Google update

Experts agree that the December 2020 Google update has gotten many of them intrigued.

The websites they work on did initially suffer losses, but more importantly after a bit of time a large majority of them did end-up with wins.

This would imply that the new changes take some time to take effect and calculate, or the reason is simply that Google did an active tweak for the algorithm some time after the rollout.

We can note that Core Vitals are entering algorithm calculations with May 2021, so again, the current update may be one that is needed to support the coming features.

The impression on the initial effect this Google update has delivered will be more observant by the end of January, when more website ranking data will be available.

A plethora of small search engine mechanic tweaks included

Indeed, it is impossible to pinpoint the effect of this update to a specific ranking factor, but it should be noted as a plethora of small tweaks that have a global effect.

Ranging from tweaks to 301 redirect, PBNs, low-value links, overall low content quality, all of these seem to be the reasons why a certain page has been pushed to the “invisible” SERPs.

Interestingly, going in 2020 the reports that come up with manual punitive actions where very few, meaning that algorithms are becoming that mature.

No definite answer to the nature of December 2020 Google update

What we can gather from online discussions is that, as expected, people who had their website go down in ranking are frustrated but they have no clue as to why their site received lower than expected ranking results.

Thing is, these people have overall good websites, maybe not the best but they are okay, and while some went a bit down, others went a bit up.


We can conclude with an opinion that experts agree the current update has enabled Google to ascertain the ranking of a page, to better degree. Right where it belongs, and without having to resort to punitive manual action.

However, due to the sheer size of the update we can expect that it will provide the foundation for a number of new features in 2021.