Google’s May 2020 Core Update: What Publishers need to know

On May 4th, Google announced its second for this year major algorithm update. It has been rolling out for almost two weeks now, and by the end of this week the so-called ‘May 2020 Core Update’ should fully be released globally. 

Similar to the previous Google January 2020 Core Update,  it’s a large change to the search engine’s algorithm that already has a big impact on a lot of sites out there. Our observations so far are that this broad core algorithm update resulted in a highly visible effect across search results worldwide. That is why the timing Google chose to roll out its update was harshly criticized by many website owners and SEO experts around the globe. Due to the current pandemic situation, it’s been already tough enough for online businesses to sustain. Let alone, dealing with traffic drops, which for many led to a decline in sales and revenue loss. Let have a look at some more detailed information on the May 2020 Update and what the digital publishing industry should expect from it.

How has the Google algorithm changed?

It has become a tradition for Google to announce its core updates, however, the policy is to not reveal what exactly has changed in the search algorithm and how it will affect the search rankings. Shortly after the update was announced, John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google was asked on Twitter to provide more details about the May update. His statement was frank and referring to the official blog post:

In the period of the roll-out, many website owners and SEO experts have reported on the effects of the Google Core Update. Our observations reveal that there are several verticals have been affected by the changes. Webmasters are reporting significant traffic losses and ranking drops in industries such as travel, tech, health, real estate. We’ll keep you posted once more information comes to light. In the meantime, you can check the Search Engine Land’s preliminary report on the ranking changes and MOZ’s detailed analysis.

Key highlights: 

  • May 2020 Core Update is a fact and like any other update, this one was also global. Overall, it is a typical “broad core update” that Google releases every few months;
  • It is the second official update for 2020 and its timing was disapproved by many and even called “Pandemic Update”. The rumor is it is connected to the change in user search behavior due to the Coronavirus Pandemic;
  • The algorithm updates are designed to improve the quality of search results, Google states that these changes could see websites that previously ranked lower suddenly rank higher and vice versa. The May 2020 Core Update inevitably resulted in a number of industry verticals more impacted than others;

Google Update Recovery: What Publishers can do?

Back in 2019, Google explained in an official blog post the algorithm changes behind core updates and what site owners and SEOs can do if they are impacted by a core update. 

If your site’s overall search rankings for queries is down, it is a definite sign that you have been hit by the update. Google’s recommendation is to “focus on delivering the best possible content”, so conducting a website audit and discover which areas you can improve. Our advice here is to focus on the following:

  • Brush up your SEO: Invest time and effort to understand your site’s technical SEO errors and work towards minimizing them. There are a lot of tools out there that you can use to detect your website’s overall health and to provide you with actionable advice on the areas you should focus on. Pay attention to the meta and title tags, the internal linking, robots.txt, etc.;  
  • Polish your Content – Try to offer original, trustworthy, and valuable content that users would love to read, share, and get back to. Aim to provide expertise and knowledge and stay relevant; If you have old and outdated and/or thin content – revise it, re-write it, the content quality matters when it comes to search traffic;
  • Competition check – Examine if your website content meets the expectations of your users, if you bring value, compared to your competitors, and if the way you present it is appealing to the readers;

In conclusion

Google’s advice on how to deal with the impact of a core update has many interpretations. Each one is different, and Google’s goal is to create the best experience for searchers. Website owners are constantly advised to make their content the best it can be. Set a strategy in place and fix some issues, if any, and your goal should be to create a better user experience than your competitors. So when it comes to Google’s algo updates, don’t stress about it, at the end of the day it is not about winning on Google. Focus on the long run, find out how you can do outrun the competition. It is often recommended that you step back from everything, take a broader view of your website, and see what you can do to improve overall.