At the start of May 2020, Google announced via its SearchLiaison Twitter account that the second core update of the year was rolling out:

“Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.”

Seeing as Google typically releases a core algorithm update every few months or so, this announcement didn’t come as much of a surprise to many, with the last one coming in January 2020.

Around two weeks later, another update from Google SearchLiaison confirmed that the rollout was complete, prompting webmasters and SEO professionals around the world to check their analytics to see if their sites had been affected.

But what should you do if you’ve been hit by the May 2020 Core Update? And why should you care?

A closer look at the May 2020 Core Update

Initial data gathered around the May 2020 Core Update indicate that it was rather significant. In fact, Mordy Oberstein from RankRanger called it an “absolute monster.”

Despite the fact the January 2020 Core Update was also sizable, Oberstein noted that May 2020 was different because “this update appears to be far more uniform across the niches I looked at than your typical core update.”

RankRanger noted rank volatility increases on page one results across a number of industry verticals including travel, retail, finance and health.

Marcus Tober from Search Metrics added that the update ”seems to be broader than former updates. Less focused on typical E.A.T. areas. With former updates you normally have a large medical site between the winners like the WebMDs or Mayoclinics. That wasn’t the case here.

“From just a few hours of analysis it seems that Google was working again on content factors combined with brand factors (maybe including CTR/user data).

“Spotify seems to be affected by the update, which is unexpected. Spotify.com was primarily growing for years. But the pages that ranked from open.spotify.com are thin content and have the login wall.

Probably they have higher bounces than peers like Youtube and despite their strong brand get lower rankings. Music.apple.com was not winning nor losing.”

Discussions in the SEO community have also been widespread, with some people claiming that they’ve lost over 90 per cent of their organic traffic since the update.

Next steps – May 2020 Core Update

If you’ve checked your analytics since the update rolled out, you should be able to see whether it had a positive or negative impact.

Sites that have been adversely affected should check out Google’s advice on core updates, which recommends:

  • Focusing on content – Focus on ensuring that you’re offering the best content you can, as this is what Google’s algorithms seek to reward. There are a number of questions you should be asking yourself – does the content provide original information or analysis, is this the sort of page you’d recommend or share with a friend, and does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Getting to know the quality rater guidelines and E-A-T – Raters are people who provide insights to Google on whether algorithms are delivering good results. By understanding how raters learn to assess good content, you can improve your own efforts. Raters are also specifically trained to identify content with strong E-A-T – Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.

A negative ranking impact may not even signal that anything is wrong with your pages, as the Google Webmaster Central Blog explains:

“There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those guidelines.

“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 some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”

Therefore, the overriding advice here is to take a step back, look at the current state of your website and see what you can do to improve its overall quality, starting with substandard content.

However, you should bear in mind that content which was impacted by the May 2020 Core Update might not recover – assuming improvements have been made – until the next broad core update is released.