As far as updates go, Google’s May Core Update was a leviathan! Mordy Oberstein from RankRanger described it as “an absolute monster.” The update itself was initiated on May the 4th, a day also known for being ‘May the Fourth Be with you” day for Star Wars fans. Tech workers will have been keeping their fingers crossed that the update would not be as devastating as the death star, nor would it come with any in-built weakness!

Data companies seem to be in agreement that this is one of the most substantial Google Core Updates in a long time and not only was it vast, it was far-reaching. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.

The event itself:

The May 2020 core update was initiated around 20:50PM UK time on May 4th and it was a global update not restricted by region, language or type of site. In essence it was substantial and broad. The timing of the update was criticised by many on the Twittersphere.

“Google please, we are in the midst of a pandemic, can’t it wait?” Eby Bekee (@QueenPhloxie) via Twitter

There are some people reporting drops in traffic to their sites as a result of the update, but none of our customers have seen a drop in rankings and in fact some have noticed that their rankings have actually improved. For us, Google updates are not a concern, rather we welcome the relentless quest to improve user and host experience. There have been some ingenious articles written, with analysis of how Google updates affect performance, in the aftermath of this Google Core Update. Such articles as this allow users to copy and replicate the author’s analysis for their own sites allowing them to analyse the performance of their web pages post-update.

The last Google Core update was done in January, but it is remarkable how much the world has changed since then. To paraphrase a conversation in the excellent recent BBC series Devs, we lived in caves for thousands of years – life barely changing and now life shifts enormously every few months. One of the biggest reported issues of this recent Core Update is the greater amount of SERP volatility. The January update, for instance led to an average of 8 volatility points, whereas the May update seems to have resulted in somewhere between 9 and 9.4.

The winners and losers of the Core Update depend greatly on sector. The biggest losers in terms of ranking changes seem to be those with more than a million monthly visitors. Of course, this is a generalisation, but there appears to be a trend. Also, of course there are winners. The news sector seems to be the biggest winner, but business and industrial, online communities, arts and entertainment, health, people and society, shopping, internet and telecom, games, beauty and fitness, pets and animals and home and garden are among other areas noticing substantial improvements. Some of these trends seem likely to be piggy-backing the cultural and societal shifts as a result of the pandemic as much as resulting from the update itself. Of course, the biggest losers can also come from the same categories as the biggest winners, but the trend is different. The biggest losers by category are: arts and entertainment, online communities, business and industrial, games and news. Unsurprisingly ‘home and garden’ is among the least worst affected, given our current predicament.

What to do if you are affected?

If you have seen a ranking drop after the update, the very best thing you can do is revise and improve your content. Google is still very much about ensuring positive user experience, so smooth performance including for mobile and great, up to date content are key. 

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