Here’s the Skinny on Google’s May 2020 Core Update
Experts agree that Google’s May 2020 core update is probably the most significant and disruptive one since the August 1, 2018, Medic update.
Google’s latest algorithm update, fully rolled out and completed on May 18, caused tectonic shifts in the world of online content and SEO – at least for some websites. There have been some clear winners and losers where shifts in rankings are concerned. But most experts say this update appears to be incredibly complex, and it is too early to identify all of the factors at play.
There are some commonalities amongst websites that saw improvements, and that’s what we’ll review here. However, we cannot say with certainty exactly what Google changed. What does appear to be true, though, is that Google has made significant advancements in its algorithm’s understanding of spoken and written language, most likely because of the use of BERT. BERT (a simple acronym for a complex term: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) was designed to help Google understand natural language better, especially in conversational queries, and it affects organic rankings and featured snippets.
Highlights of the May Update
The May 2020 core update appears to favor websites that display relevancy as well as E.A.T. – Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness, according to industry expert Marie Haynes. Here’s a summary of content elements present in websites that saw nice improvements:
- Relevancy: Google appears to be getting better at comprehending what it is the searcher is looking for and surfacing websites that have the best and most complete answers to that query.
- Expertise: Many articles that enjoyed a boost in rankings with the May 2020 update contained first-hand expertise.
- Authority: Authority – the sense that a website or article has a powerful voice that knows what it’s talking about – has long been considered important. With the May 2020 update, many smaller websites saw improvements. In some cases, they were able to outrank giant, authoritative sites in their verticals. This is worth further study.
- Trustworthiness: Google likely reassessed signals it uses to determine a site’s trust factor and help determine its E.A.T. This is frequently the case with algorithm updates.
- Link Quality: Google appears to be getting better at distinguishing which links are true votes of confidence from other people recommending your content and which links are essentially self-made for SEO purposes. The latter are called “grey hat.” A common grey hat marketing technique is “linkbaiting,” which occurs when someone writes a tailor-made article so that social bookmarking sites can link to your site. It also includes paying popular social media sites to link to your website, creating the appearance of being widely endorsed so that search engines raise your site’s ranking. It appears that Google is putting less emphasis on linking now that they can better understand content, or their algorithm is getting better at distinguishing which links are authentic votes of approval and which are paid.
This assessment shows some commonalities in the sites that improved or declined significantly after the May 2020 core update, but we cannot say with certainty exactly what Google changed. These observations are offered as things to keep in mind when creating the best content possible for your site. A review of Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines can also be helpful.
An Earthquake and Aftershocks
Often, when Google updates its algorithms there is a testing period that follows. The initial earthquake of a major update can drastically shake up search results. However, minor adjustments to that initial update can follow as Google tracks the real-world outcome of an algorithm change. These aftershocks help search results fall into place a bit more permanently (at least until the next major update). At that point, the SEO community can gain a more complete understanding of what changed in the way Google understands sites’ content and ranks those sites. In the May update, as with other major ones, the initial change rolls out over an extended period – sometimes days, sometimes a few weeks. This further extends the time needed to fully understand what changed in how Google ranks sites.
What to Do When Traffic Increases or Decreases
For a better understanding of how updates can affect traffic on your site, it’s worth reading Google’s advice about core updates. This blog is packed with information that can help you recognize what to do when faced with a traffic drop after a Google update. There are several nuggets of information that may be useful to you.
Perhaps the key takeaway from the May 2020 core update is RELEVANCY. The update appears to be designed to ensure that search results offered up are relevant to the searcher’s query. In order to do this, Google’s algorithm got better at understanding language and the intent of the searcher’s question. Understanding the nuances of language is critical to understanding intent.
To drill down deeper, Google offers several documents that explain how search algorithms work. The piece explains that Google is always trying to figure out what type of content a searcher wants to find. They may be looking for fresh content, reviews, pictures or some other kind of information. Increasingly, when offering up search results, we see that Google puts significant value on websites that provide helpful information with a high degree of specificity. The length of a page or the number of pictures and graphics appears to be less important.
However, don’t disregard these elements. If your content is too short, Google may not identify it as having strong value to a user. If you leave out images or graphics, you lose opportunity to maximize the visual elements that can be offered by a website. A long wall of text can be so unappealing in this era of website design that a user will see it and leave a page quickly, whether the content is exactly what they need or not.
When There Are So Many Variables, You Need Help
If all of this is starting to make your head spin, that’s understandable. A highly specialized SEO practitioner can help guide you in designing web pages and creating content that leverages the elements we’re observing in the May 2020 core update. To talk to a specialist, give Gladiator Law Marketing a call at (888) 683-3212. We’d be glad to help!
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