Updated: Jan 6
As the Fourth of May rolled around and Star Wars fans began gearing up to celebrate along with their fandom, Google was busy creating a force of its own. While there were no lightsabers and Yoda wasn’t hanging about speaking in cryptics, Google released yet another Core Update—which started to roll out at around 4 pm ET.
At the time of writing this, we are 10 days into the Google May 2020 Core update. Based on the changes companies and marketers have observed up until now, this particular update is a broader one.
Prior to what RankRanger’s Mordy Oberstein called “an absolute monster” of an update, Google had unleashed core updates in January. While it was still considerably impactful, the May Core update can be potentially more effective as it is a broad core update that has also taken the current COVID-19 pandemic and other drastic changes into consideration.
In this article, we will take a brief look at how the Google May 2020 Core Update has been affecting websites and who are the winners and losers prompted by the algorithmic change.
An Update in the Midst of a Pandemic
One of the major points of contention with this particular core update was the timing. It will take a week (at the time of writing) to roll out in its entirety.
Considering that COVID-19 has already been causing companies to close or halt operations, leading to decreased traffic and sales, the algorithmic change seems to bewilder many. The common complaint is that pandemic-imposed business fluctuation is already causing a financial crunch to many.
Considering that the full impact of Google’s May Core Update is still under development, the anticipation and uncertainty of what it will do to rankings, traffic and sales leave many critical of the timing. In fact, a user on WebmasterWorld-Forum was quoted as saying:
“It’s pandemic and I don’t want Google updates to crush me at this time of financial crises. I’m scared.” – Mayank Parmar
Well, Mayank Parmar’s concern is completely valid as Google’s algorithmic changes may impact his livelihood. However, we should not be pessimistic and look at the facts of how it has been performing up until now.
Impacting Average Ranking Volatility
This May Core Update impacts a lot of websites, regardless of which country they originate from, covering a wide range of languages as well.
While it started out negligibly, SERP (Search Engine Results Page) volatility has been unprecedented post-update release. SEMRush used its SEMrush Sensor to track SERP volatility before and a few days after the release.
As per their findings, there has been a major disturbance in ranking volatility. Compared to the average volatility of 8 points caused by the January update, the May Update peaked at a 9 to 9.4 point volatility changes by May 6th.
What this means is that the update has increased the rankings of websites in certain niches while causing a dip for others. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the volatility of websites’ rankings.
Queries involving travel, live events etc. have already been low during the pandemic. The algorithm update has further dipped the ranking of sites within this niche.
Which Industries Were Affected the Most
A recent analysis across various industries and contributed by webmasters from multiple niches revealed that travel, real estate, health, pets and animals, and people and society have been affected the most.
For example, the average volatility within the travel category jumped from 1.9 to 6.4 on 5th May and then to 9.3 on the 6th.
Along with these, SERP winners after the update rolled out turned out to include sites within the News sector. With the added burgeon of people keeping eyes on the news, ranking for media outlets gained unprecedented attention.
PR outlets such as PR Newswire and GlobalNewswire gained positions as well.
SEMrush noted another trend. They noticed that despite having high authority domains, sites with more than 1 million monthly visitors made up half of the population affected by the algorithm update.
For example, some of the high domain authority websites that saw ranking dips include Spotify, Creditkarma, Ny.gov, and Nypost.com.
Quite obviously, the offline entertainment industry has taken a hit along with real estate, finance etc. You can find more detailed breakdowns here.
What About the LinkedIn Debacle?
Last week, on May 5th, to be exact, LinkedIn had a little ranking scare. The website completely dropped from Google Search. Turns out, it was not the algorithm update that led to the website’s www version along with its 690 million users disappearing. In fact, it was a technical mistake from LinkedIn’s side that caused the temporary debacle.
If you would have asked Google for advice on how to cope with the changes May 2020 Core Update will have, they would link you to the blog they published in August 2019. The guidelines suggested they are still worth their salt today.
The gist of it is that all you can do is create more meaningful, relevant, and authoritative content and fix your SEO mistakes. Neil Patel also suggests that you improve your thin content, which includes pages with low word counts.
As a result of the Google May 2020 Core Update, sites with thin content are three times more likely to lose search traffic.
The goal is to create high-quality content that helps answer queries succinctly with facts and data. For that, another suggestion is considering the use of E.A.T and YMYL.
Published in 2015 in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, the guidelines explained three main factors Google looks for when indexing and ranking webpages. These are the beneficial purpose (quite self-explanatory), EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), and YMYL (Your Money or Your Life).
Your Money or Your Life refers to content that could potentially impact the reader’s life or financial stability. It includes high-stake webpages such as:
News and current events
Civics, government and law
Health and safety
Groups or people (claimed related to sensitive information based on race, ethnicity, religion etc.)
Others such as housing info, nutrition, fitness, employment etc.
Google rates those pages higher that have content contributed by experts.
E.A.T or Page Quality
E.A.T i.e. the Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness of a page is determined based on whether the content is YMYL or non-YMYL. It determines whether the content was created by an expert, whether the content, content creator and the website are considered an authoritative source of information, and whether the content, content creator and the website can be trusted to share honest and accurate information.
Google May 2020 Core Update may have been a major player in changing the direction of how websites are ranked, especially considering the impact of trends emerging in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Webmasters and professionals in Search Engine Optimization aware of the intricacies of the algorithm understand that creating better content and improving user experience is the most they can do to gain its favor.
If you’re not entirely sure of how this algorithm change will impact your business, Pendragon Consulting possesses in-depth expertise in the area to help you understand. With research-driven insights on our side, we can further help you create a strategy that will help you perform better in the light of recent algorithm changes.