Google May 2020 Core Update: Here’s What You Need to Know

by Muhammad Umair
Google May 2020 Update

Being a Star Wars fan, May 4th is typically a happy day for me.

But 2020 has no dearth when it comes to surprises, unpleasant ones in particular.

So, when I say “May the fourth” be with you, this year, I mean it!


Well on May 4, 2020, Google has confirmed that they are rolling out the second core search algorithm update this year. It is called the “May 2020 Core Update.”

No fun names or cute avatars to imagine, — just the algorithms that are expected to shake things up like an AT-AT walker knocking at your door.

Some webmasters and SEOs have criticized the timing of the May 2020 Core Update. With the ongoing global lockdown, sustaining online businesses, in the middle of the pandemic, is already challenging enough. There is a widespread decline in traffic and sales for many online businesses. As a result, there prevails an overall sense of uncertainty about the future.

Here’s Google officially announcing it:

This post dilates upon the information and analysis of the latest May 2020 Core Update.

May 2020 Core Update – What’s New?

As usual, Google has not disclosed precise information on what has changed in the search algorithm, or which businesses or subjects are the strong focus of the Google Update. It is not yet clear whether there is a link to the Coronavirus Pandemic and the changing search behaviour of Google users.

According to Google, the entire roll-out period will take one to two weeks until all changes are live. Google often performs post-rollout tweaks – they usually make adjustments due to inadvertent or undesirable ranking results.

Most updates consolidate with minor changes pretty quickly, but this one is taking the time, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s going to be a Biggy. 

Why Google Updates Cause Ranking Volatility?

One of the reasons that search results are becoming volatile is that it may take some time to make changes to all data centres globally. If your browser hits a data centre, it might receive old data or new data.

Another reason to explain the frequent changes is that multiple factors are changing. What usually happens is that the update rolls out, followed by a period of relative calm, which is then interrupted by more changes which sometimes reverse the losses, known as false positives.

False positives are when an update unintentionally affects the relevant sites. After the update, Google engineers monitor and measure the responses, review the google search results, and fine-tune the results to smooth out the false positives.

Impressions and Apprehensions about May 2020 Core Update

A lot of people are apprehensive about May 2020 Core Update and are describing it with the words like ‘Carnage’. Most businesses noted that the timing couldn’t have been worst since doing business at such dire time was a struggle, already. In the words of Tony Wright, a known search marketer, ‘ This seems to be one of the most significant updates in recent memory. It’s too early to do anything but analysis, but the sites in multiple verticals have been affected. It’s not clear yet who the winners are. “

Several people shared that while it’s still early, changes are taking place across a number of industries, particularly in the health sector.

May 2020 Core Update – Who are The Winners and Losers?

Note that the broad core algorithm updates are meant to bring notable changes to search results in all the countries and languages.

Some ranking drops and gains are unavoidable once the core update is fully rolled out. Assuredly, during the pandemic, we expect to see a dramatic decrease in queries related to travel, tourism, and live events, etc. So, many of the categories’ volatility would come as no surprise at all.

However, at this point, the most significant impact of May 2020 Core Update occurs across several industries, including some of those already affected by the pandemic. 

With the assistance of SEMrush Sensor, the average volatility has been compared seven days before and two days after the announcement of the update. And the most influential categories are Travel, Real Estate, Health, Pets & Animals and People & Society. This holds good for both mobile and desktop searches.

It has also been noted that a lot of big domains have been affected, significantly. Approximately half of the major ranking fluctuations in the US have occurred on websites with traffic exceeding 1 million monthly visitors.

  • SERP Winners (the obituary site) has gained positions (+ 13 positions on average) and popularity with this update. But, as expected, the news sector is the biggest winner.

With everyone’s constant attention to the news in the last few months, many media outlets are gaining unparalleled attention of the users. Still, it seems that whatever they’re doing has worked well, and they’re getting rewarded with May 2020 Core Update.

The biggest winner in the News category is Indian Express. And, as far as the Business sector is concerned, it was interesting to see PR outlets gain some significant ranking traction—sites like Businesswire, PR Newswire, and GlobeNewswire have earned about 50+ positions each. 

Below are the top five winners of May 2020 Core Update.

  • News Sector
  • Business and Industrial Sector
  • Online Communities
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Health Sector
  • SERP Losers

Evidently, the offline entertainment industry has been hit particularly hard, and so are the websites that are linked to it. Eventbrite, the “it-place” for those looking for some offline fun, has lost about 44 positions.

What Does May 2020 Core Update Target?

It is important to understand that Google’s broad core updates do not target an industry in particular.

Though the change in the algorithm may have a strong impact on an industry, but that does not mean that the industry has been specifically targeted.

Google has a recent history of implementing diverse core updates that affect factors such as understanding the user search intent and purpose and content of the web pages and how these pages are pertinent to search queries.

For instance, a change in a better understanding of the search intention may have an impact on how Google ranks medical-related sites.

If Google establishes that searchers want scientific answers to health queries, then this is going to have a negative ranking effect on sites with so-called “natural” remedies.

Thus, if medical-related sites appear to be adversely impacted, it could be the effect of a change in understanding the purpose of the search.

Link related factors like no-follow links for ranking purposes are also part of recent May 2020 Core Update.

How Can You Turn the Odds in Your Favour?

Google doesn’t really reward websites for any kind of quality. It ranks sites based on how relevant they are to the google search queries. Google also uses a link signal to determine the popularity and relevance of the site. And it tries not to rank websites of low quality.

Therefore, whatever the May 2020 Core Update has in the offing, the above criteria are likely to remain the rider clause for the Google search rankings. So, whatever comes, if your content is relevant, updated and optimised, it will sing on all search engines.

The Upshot

It is essential to wait until the google search results are settled before you make any changes. Keep an eye out for winning sites and try to understand why those sites have been successful. Don’t take advantage of the most apparent reason, though. The best way to view the changes is through the lens of how the site best handles the search intention.

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