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Google’s May 2020 Core Update

Google’s Core Update Announcement

On May 4th, Google’s public liaison of search, Danny Sullivan, tweeted that users could expect a broad core algorithm update that would be rolling out worldwide to Google’s network of data centers over a series of days. This is more significant since the last Core Update occurred back on January 13, 2020.  As is typical with these updates, it will typically take about one to two weeks to fully roll out.  This is a classic “broad core update” as it was a global update not specific to any region, language, or web site category.



What is a Google Core Update?

Compared to the daily releases of smaller algorithm updates to improve the searcher experience, Core Updates are Google Updates that don’t specifically target search queries or website characteristics. While major updates like Panda and Penguin specifically target content quality and links, Core Updates tend to impact websites in a variety of areas.

Broad core updates generate measurable effects across search results in all countries and languages.  Sites will report varying degrees of search rankings changes from subtle to drastic changes after the algorithm update.  As rankings settle during the following weeks, changes in search rankings are generally a reflection of the relationship between a site’s content relevancy and the new algorithm.

Content existing before the algorithm update will rank higher if it satisfies the algorithm’s new rules, and the converse is also true.  There is also the issue of content published after the algorithm update that needs to be assessed without “pre-algorithm” benchmarks.


Initial Impact

Google Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, has not revealed details about the May update. It is too early to carry out any identified actionable initiatives other than continued analysis.  On a global scale, various industries are reporting ranking and search traffic fluctuations since the rollout began. This can be expected as the algorithm continues to roll out until completion and ranking signals settle.

A recent analysis from SEMRush shows the list of industry categories most impacted were travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society. This is SEMRush’s breakdown of the recent ranking volatility by industry category:



Also, Mordy Oberstein from RankRanger is reporting similar ranking volatility among industry verticals such as travel, retail, finance, and health.


Site ranking and search metrics may also be influenced by changes in search behavior as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines. This may obfuscate the true effects of Google May 2020 Core Update.  For example, technology enabling people to work from home ties directly to companies providing related hardware products and solutions.  Search behavior changes for these products may be blurred by the recent algorithm changes in the coming weeks.

With this being the first update since the COVID-19 pandemic, the May 2020 Core update has the potential to be especially volatile.



Core Updates can take days or weeks before any noticeable results appear in reporting. Furthermore, Google will sometimes make adjustments or reversals, so jumping to conclusions or making drastic changes is not recommended.

Concerning any traffic to your site from the Google Search Console Discover Feed, Google continues to recommend “The two best ways to boost the ranking and performance of your Discover content are (1) to post content that you think users would find interesting and (2) to use high-quality images in your content.”

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9046777?hl=en%22


What’s Next?

As with any algorithm update, some sites may see drops or gains in keyword rankings and organic traffic. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may not perform as well because of an update.

There is not necessarily a fix for pages that may not perform well after a Core Update, but Google recommends websites attract quality links from other sites with great content that follows their Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

In the meantime, be sure to analyze Google Search Console and site traffic analytics over the following weeks to further see the impact of this Core Update on your search engine presence.

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