On the 4th of May 2020, Google rolled out a new Core Update to its algorithm, causing new challenges for Search Engine Optimisation experts everywhere.
Looking back on May, it’s fair to say that it’s been a somewhat rocky month for the SEO industry, and Google’s May 2020 Core Update is a big part of the reason why. Now, as you may know, Google makes lots of updates to its search algorithms. It’s impossible to say exactly how many, but company insiders have hinted that there are probably several every day, which puts the total at about a thousand a year. But once every couple of months, Google likes to roll out a particularly huge update to its search algorithms, and it’s these that are referred to as Core Updates.
Google’s world leading algorithm is first and foremost designed to give searchers the most relevant and useful results, and the key function of Core Updates are to ensure that it keeps meeting that goal. As you’d expect, they’re very broad-ranging in scope, and not specific to any region, language or type of website. Sometimes the effects are clear immediately, and sometimes they take a couple of months.
On the 4th of May this year, Google rolled out a mammoth Core Update. And unlike most of the time in the SEO industry, you don’t need to be an expert to see why the timing of it was… problematic.
We’ll give you a clue as to the biggest one: it starts with a C, and ends with a 19. The coronavirus pandemic has left businesses all over the world in a state of flux, and many of them are relying on their websites are their only remaining way to do business. With that in mind, you can see why a lot of business owners and SEOs think it’s a bit of a rubbish time to be rolling out a huge update with the potential to cause widespread and dramatic effects on rankings – and therefore leads and sales.
On the flipside though, some industry professionals have suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic might be one of the very reasons the update has been rolled out. There’s no question that the pandemic has been affecting search patterns, and one reporter from the Washington Post has pointed out it’s likely to end up as the biggest search topic in Google’s entire history. So it wouldn’t be too far fetched to conclude that the update was at least partially designed to keep up with dramatic shift in user search behaviour over the last few months, and make the algorithm more sensitive to these changes. Right now that’s still mostly speculation, though – we still can’t say for certain!
The trickiest thing about Google Core Updates is that Google never reveals the full details behind each one, and probably never will. The company has explained the reasons why before, and it mainly comes down to two main factors. First of all, its search algorithm is a world-leading business asset, so sharing it with the world (including their competitors) would be a very bad move for them, business-wise. The second is that revealing the workings behind it would potentially leave it vulnerable to manipulation by spammers or other bad-faith actors, which would be bad news for everyone – we’d be stuck with much more spam, and much more low-quality or irrelevant results in Google search results.
So considering things from the company’s perspective, you can see why Google would be so notoriously cagey about each Core Update. The flipside to this is that it can take months for SEO specialists to build up a full picture of all the effects of each update, and they have to do it mostly by community consensus. Some have compared the release of these Core Updates to murder mysteries, in a way. Who did it? What was the motive behind it? Who were the victims, and who survived?
In this case, the community is already coming to some tentative conclusions. For example, it may well have been at least partially designed to target thin content, as there have been multiple reports of text-poor pages losing their rankings. But there might be all sorts of other factors involved too, and the real reason could be another factor all these pages had in common, apart from their thin content. Or it could be a combination of the two. We don’t really know. The SEO community is still busy drawing their conclusions – and obviously here at 21Digital, we’ve got our heads buried in research right now too!
Easy – talk to us. If Google Updates really are like murder mysteries, we’re the guys in the deerstalker hats with the big magnifying glasses. Interpreting and adapting to Google’s changes is a huge part of the job for our technical SEO experts, and we’re constantly adapting our bespoke SEO strategies on the fly to help you stay on top of Google’s search results. And don’t forget that each change won’t have negative effects for everyone – the Core Updates are first and foremost designed to incentivise quality web content, so it’s just as likely to reward your site as penalise it. It’s easy enough to spot when your site’s been affected – it’s the working out why that’s the tricky part!
You can find out more about our Search Engine Optimisation services right here on our website, or alternatively feel free to get in touch with us. At the time of writing, we’re working remotely and operating our normal trading hours – call us on 01254 660 560 between 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday.