Google’s May 2020 core update: What it is and what you need to know
To read the online responses, you’d think that Google did something unprecedented when they released their core update in early May. The truth is, the search giant updates their algorithm every few months or so—so why the uproar? In this latest iteration, the search algorithm has prioritized some pages while penalizing others, leaving small and medium business owners scrambling to get their site listed and recover their organic traffic. Read on for a deeper understanding of the second core update of 2020 and what—if anything—you can do to help your ranking.
The Google algorithm and its updates
Let’s start with the goal. Put simply, the higher your business listing appears in the top search engine page results (SERPs), the more organic traffic you can expect. So your goal (and everyone else’s) is to appear in one of the first few spots in search rankings. But achieving and maintaining a top spot is not easy. Your success will depend in part on understanding Google’s algorithm and how it ranks you. The search engine algorithm (itself a set of more than 200 factors, in Google’s case) measures your content for authority and relevance. Add to that, the algorithm itself is adjusted many times per year. This is why search engine optimization (SEO) cannot be a “side” task—it is a specific and complex area of expertise.
Google typically updates its algorithm three or four times per year as an ongoing effort to make the search tool work as well as it can. The adjustments may be based on many factors including new technologies, keyword trends, and even the efforts of webmasters and SEO experts to “game” the search engine system. Normally, an algorithm update passes by without much comment save for folks deep in the profession. Not so with this May 2020 core update.
One big criticism about Google’s May 2020 core update
This update was rolled out on May 4 and took until May 18 to be complete. That’s a big update, and the results have been causing concern. The main criticisms have to do with which pages are occupying the coveted top spots in the SERPs, specifically large brands like Amazon and Etsy, and social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook. These sites, critics say, have virtually no content and they’re edging out other pages with more relevant content.
What does this mean for SMBs?
For small or medium businesses, this trend is worrying. Google is by far the most-used search engine in the world and it’s where the majority of organic traffic can be expected to originate. Previously, business owners had some sort of road map to getting Google “right”:
Publish high-quality content
Fill in your site’s metadata
Encourage high-quality backlinks
Optimize your site
Now, however, critics are concerned that the domination of mega-sites in the top results belies an unfair change in the algorithm, one that prioritizes big brands over quality content.
What you should do if your site has slipped in the Google rankings
If you’re seeing a drop in your Google ranking, you’re likely looking for a fix. According to Google, you should tread carefully.
“Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.”
You’re forgiven if this feels like unsatisfactory guidance. If you want to tweak your site to try and regain lost ground after the May 2020 core update, the main issue, according to Google, is to provide the very best content you can. Further, they offer a checklist to consider.
In general, you should make sure your content:
Is better than other content on the same topic
Raters and E-A-T content
One way to review your content is to use quality rater guidelines. Raters are humans who provide feedback to Google about the performance of their algorithms. They evaluate content according to its “E-A-T”: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Review your content to see if it demonstrates these three elements. By understanding how raters view online content, you should be able to gain an edge with your own.
If you’re a small or medium-sized business and you’ve seen your ranking drop since Google’s May 2020 core update, take these three steps:
Review your content
Check your keywords
Fill in your metadata
But remember, these are the guidelines for any good website—forget about what the latest update prioritizes. If, after this, you still find yourself lower on the SERP than you’d like, remember that Google changes its algorithms every three or four months, so the current situation won’t last.