Star Wars figurines
Okay, here we go.
 
This could be unpopular.
 
If you’re a website that has lost traffic because of this update and want to know how to recover, this article won’t help you. It’s already been said repeatedly over the past few years. Provide better solutions for your audience. Make sure you align your content with E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness). Even the claimed ‘detailed analyses’ don’t give you anything concrete.
 
We understand the frustration. People want to quantify the situation. They want explanations and a route to follow to get out of their predicament. These may come out of the woodwork eventually, but it’s sort of the point of core updates. They’re not targeting specific websites or tactics, they’re a more general change.
 
So we thought we’d take a different tact on this one. We’d look at some of the reactions and advice out there and weigh in on their efficacy.
 
Let’s be clear. Google don’t release any information on specifics. Also, the update has been out for a few weeks and as such any data is sporadic at best. So just like those who published their detailed analysis….this is speculation and discussion. Nothing more.

What was the May 2020 Core Update?

Let’s get the basics covered off.
 
This was one of Google’s Core Updates, which they reportedly roll out “several times a year”. This one was announced by Google’s Danny Sullivan via the @searchliaison Twitter account, on 4th May 2020. As per the screenshot below, the update took a couple of weeks to roll out globally.
Searchliaison announces may 2020 update
It was a big one as well.
 
According to MozCast this was the largest update since August 2018’s Medic Update. You only need to look at the reports to see that it resulted in more change than previous core updates.
 
In fact, this is the first update for a while that has grabbed the headlines. It did so from the very beginning. Initially people were disappointed in Google’s lack of creativity. Why not call it the ‘Force Update’ on account of it being released on 4th May, i.e Star Wars Day.
Force update tweet

It also received some criticism because of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on society. For those that lost traffic, it comes at a very inopportune time. Let’s just say that for the majority of people business isn’t good during Covid-19. In our opinion, there are also going to be winners and Google needs to update their system. It’s unfortunate for those that are negatively affected, it truly is, but this is about macro-level improvements.

What did the May 2020 Core Update Target?

Google does not announce specifics with regards to Core Updates.
 
“In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better”
We understand the frustration. People want to quantify the situation. They want explanations and a route to follow to get out of their predicament. These may come out of the woodwork eventually, but it’s sort of the point of core updates. They’re not targeting specific websites or tactics, they’re a more general change.
 
So we thought we’d take a different tact on this one. We’d look at some of the reactions and advice out there and weigh in on their efficacy.
 
Let’s be clear. Google don’t release any information on specifics. Also, the update has been out for a few weeks and as such any data is sporadic at best. So just like those who published their detailed analysis….this is speculation and discussion. Nothing more.

Understandable Frustration

As we’ve already said, the frustration is understandable. Not only is the world on a sharp economic decline with grim forecasts, but some will have lost significant visibility because of the update.
 
People aren’t content with unquantified answers, especially when it may be having a negative effect on their business. It’s also further exacerbated by the lack of real time reaction. Google state that when it comes to recovery:
 
“Content that was impacted by one might not recover – assuming improvements have been made – until the next broad core update is released
 
This can be a very scary concept for webmasters. It could be months before the next core update….and even then there is no guarantee you will bounce back, because there’s no information!
 
We get it. It’s far from ideal. What you can’t expect though is a tick box style guide to recovery. That just isn’t going to happen.

Inconclusive Analysis

This update has garnered a lot of attention from the SEO industry as well as marketers in general. What happens when something grows in popularity? People want to target that traffic. After all, that’s our job as SEOs.
 
The issue here is the amount of ‘dust has settled’ style articles that deliver nothing for the user. That’s the whole reason why we didn’t look to join the crew of SEOs analysing the potential impact.
 
Dr Peter Meyers demonstrated the somewhat futile nature of analysing the data for Moz. The data is too fresh and evolving. The update doesn’t target anything specific. So what is there to analyse?!
 
I don’t want this to evolve into a rant. Suffice to say that you cannot call an article a detailed analysis…..if the conclusion is to assess your content based on E-A-T . That was specific to this update, that’s good practice and has been since 2018.

Everyone can't be a loser...

There also seems to be a lack of understanding about how the SERP s work. A lot of the articles report on mass drops in rankings on a category basis. Whilst there are certain categories that will have specific attributes (e.g news), the others are going to be fairly homogenous. i.e news has high time decay content, so does sports. However, the difference between homes & interiors and gardens will not be huge.
 
Furthermore, in order for someone to lose rankings, someone has to gain rankings. The SEO world tends to focus on the losers. Bear in mind though that in order for a website to lose a ranking position, another website must take its place. This seems to be how Google approach the issue, so why don’t we as SEOs? There is painfully little on what companies do well.
 
Let’s pause the topic and have a quick distraction to this guy. I guess that’s us being childish, someone has to market sex toys. It’s just a bit surprising to see in an SEO Twitter thread:

There are some interesting thoughts:

We enjoyed Dr. Peter Meyers’ article, but more so that from Roger Montti for Search Engine Journal. He looked at subjects such as double listings from large websites such as Pinterest, Amazon and Etsy. He also briefly explored how the A.I/Machine Learning Systems could be affected by strange search behaviour (due to the pandemic). The latter being a particularly believable theory.
 
Interesting thoughts indeed, and an interesting take on what Roger calls an ‘unusual update’.
 
A couple of thoughts on the two:
  • Double listings were prevalent before the update, especially from Amazon and Pinterest. This feels like a coincidental form of confirmation bias. The May Core Update has not cause double listings, they were there beforehand. They may have been exarcebated by the update.
  • It’s really interesting to consider how search behaviour has changed due to the pandemic. This is clearly going to have an effect on website’s traffic. We also need to take into account how businesses (and marketing plans) may have changed due to the pandemic. Surely this would mean that some start to win more than others?
Speculation again. That’s the point of this article, and we’ve fallen into our own trap. Until clear data can be gathered on the update, or Google break their silence, we shouldn’t be speculating.
 
In fact, we’d go so far as to stop reading articles on this update. If you want a single article, refer yourself to Google’s core update guide.
 
The irony is heavy here. We understand that.
 
Let’s leave it there.

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