Don’t panic: How to handle the May 2020 core update by Google

Back Don’t panic: How to handle the May 2020 core update by Google

In early May, Google released a new core update, one of three or four disseminated annually.

Usually these go relatively unnoticed but this recent release has ruffled feathers. The problem? This iteration appears to have prioritized certain web pages over others on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). If you’re wondering what the changes mean and what you should do about them, this article is for you. 

Understanding the Google algorithm

The higher your business listing appears in the SERPs the more organic traffic you can expect but it’s tricky to achieve and maintain a top spot. Your marketing efforts will succeed or fail in part based on your understanding of Google’s algorithm and how it ranks you. Google uses a set of more than 200 factors to assess your content for authority and relevancy. Part of your marketing strategy will revolve around satisfying this algorithm which would be a challenging enough, but Google makes adjustments with every update. 

With three or four updates annually, designed to accommodate new technologies and keyword trends, Google works to keep their own results relevant. Usually these updates propagate without much comment, but the May 2020 core update has caused some concern.

With a roll-out of two full weeks, the May 2020 core update was enormous. After implementation, users immediately noticed differences in the SERPs and voiced criticism. The biggest difference after the update? It appears that large brands like Amazon and Etsy, and social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook are now occupying the top spots. These sites, critics say, provide virtually no content—previously a mandatory requirement for first-page sites. 

What does this mean for my company?

No doubt about it, 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 comes from. Previously, business owners had some sort of road map to getting Google “right”:

  • Use keywords
  • Publish high-quality content
  • Fill in your site’s metadata
  • Encourage high-quality back links
  • Optimize your site

Now, however, the path forward is unclear. 

My site has slipped in the Google rankings—what should I do? 

If you’re seeing a drop in your ranking, you’re going to be concerned but Google is advising against rash changes. 

“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.”

If you’re not content to take a wait-and-see approach, your best (and safest) bet is to focus on your content. Google published a checklist to consider but in general, make sure your content:

  • Is original
  • Demonstrates expertise
  • Is well-researched
  • Is relevant
  • Is error-free
  • 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 (but they don’t affect the algorithms). If you can understand how raters view online content, you should be able to gain an edge with your own.

Raters are trained to evaluate content according to its expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness—variables with the acronym E-A-T. Review your content. Does it demonstrate these three elements?

The May 2020 core update caused a lot of alarm, but a rash reaction won’t improve your rankings. Instead, review your content, check your keywords, and fill in your metadata—in other words, do all the things you would normally do to maintain a quality website. If 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.