Google May 2020 Core Update: SEO Expert Roundup (on way ahead)

Google May 2020 Core Update: SEO Expert Roundup (on way ahead)

On 4th of May 2020, Google came out with an algorithm change that they defined as a “Core Update”.

Such core updates happen several times a year and aim to improve the quality of searches for the end user.

But the May 2020 update was quite different: just have a look at the SERP volatility sensor from SEMRush (courtesy Neil Patel). Notice the rank fluctuations between 4th to 7th May which happens to fall in the “Very High” zone.

As per Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz, this was the “second-highest Core Update on MozCast since August 2018 (AKA “Medic Update”).”

At OnPage Champ, we witnessed something similar when we discussed the impact within our user community. 

Some of the websites holding top ranks for years just went out of search results. A couple of them witnessed significant rank falls, wiping more than 70% of their organic traffic.

See the rank fluctuations for one of our paid customers during the week of  4th May (published with their permission):-

While many businesses have been reeling under the impact of Corona, the May 2020 Core Update came as a second blow.

To help such businesses chalk their way out, we reached out to top SEO experts to learn how to deal with the May 2020 Update.


Here’s what our top experts have to suggest:-

1. Matt Diggit | Diggity Marketing 

Q. Single biggest observation

A. The large, generalized, authority sites are beating more-relevant niche websites that have better content.  It looks like they’ve turned up the volume on links.

Q. What else do you think Google factored in?

A. Hard to say. There’s nothing else that I found beyond-a-doubt obvious other than the above.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit (or even otherwise)?

A. Do all the things. Core algorithm updates are never about one thing anymore. Assume everything is wrong with your site.  Do a complete audit of your technical, onsite, and offsite SEO.


2. Inputs from Craig Campbell | Craig Campbell SEO 

Q. Single biggest observation

A. It’s still early to comment on what actually happened, but what I could gather from my peers is that this current update is link related (caution: I’m answering this on the 13th of May so we are not even two weeks into the update). I will let things settle before I take any action, if needed.

Q. What else do you think Google factored in?

A. Referring to Christophe Cemper from LRT, this update has something to do with link velocity.

To reach this conclusion, you need tons of data across millions of websites. Frankly, I’m looking up to guys who have access to such data and see what they will be saying around the May 2020 update.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit (or even otherwise)?

A. As always check what the problem is.

In this case, it is likely to be heavily related to links so check for the competitors you have who have seen little to no negative impact and then dissect that data to figure out where you went wrong. 

And then come up with a plan and take action to make sure that you quickly get a recovery and continue to make money online.


3. Larry Kim | MobileMonkey 

Q. Single biggest observation

A. It’s practically untrue that if you have a high domain authority or domain score, you’ll continually get more traffic and won’t be affected by updates. Even the well-known websites experienced a big fluctuation in their SERPS results like;Spotify.com, LinkedIn.com, etc.

Also, due to the global crisis the categories that were once highly relevant aren’t being searched for as much. For example – searches related to travel, tourism, live entertainment, and in-person events are all down.

Q. What else do you think Google factored in?

A. The Core algorithm pushes on improving your content quality. So it’s safe to say that we need to get back on our SEO efforts and content marketing and assess if it is based on what the customer needs not what SERPs needs.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit (or even otherwise)?

A. Turn your donkey content into unicorns. Eliminate thin content.


4. John Lincoln | Ignite Visibility

Q. Single biggest observation

A. The May 2020 update seemed to destroy websites with thin pages that have not been updated recently. We have seen thin forums, category pages and blog posts removed from the index completely.

You can see this in Google Search Console. Now, it has also recently been reported that Google has had indexing issues. But regardless, it looks like they turned the quality dial up a notch and did not favor non-curated user generated content.

Q. What else do you think Google factored in?

A. I also think as part of this update they looked at all websites disavow files again. We saw a few websites that had been targeted by negative SEO, which were not ranking well, make a comeback.

So it seems to have been a mix of link evaluation and and content evaluation.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit (or even otherwise)?

A. For me, the advice is usually pretty similar after these updates. Take a look at what is ranking above you and analyse the content, links and website as a whole.

Get a list of all your pages that dropped and take a hard look at your links and content verse the competitors. Go back in and modify the elements on your page so that the page is better than the number one ranking.

Also, lately I’ve been recommending people put in more time to really build the brand.

Run some branding ads to up your branded search, get major press mentions, get some columns going on top publications and build your thought leadership. And don’t forget, if you really saw a big drop you can always advertise on Google until things come back.

It is not just about SEO anymore, there are so many ways to grow a business online.

SEO should only be marginal part of your strategy.


5. Matthew Woodward | Matthew Woodward

(Matthew directed us to his Facebook post that he wrote on this topic. His post answers 2 of our questions. Below are the excerpts from his Facebook post).

Q. Single biggest observation

A. It’s still too early to comment on what has happened. Plus, the algorithm adjustments take some time to happen , so any upfront analysis at this point is useless.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit (or even otherwise)?

A. If you have been penalised, the problem is usually much closer to home than you think. 

You must be able to accept both blame and responsibility for the penalty rather than trying to pin it on some external thought, feeling or belief.

Rather than getting into a blame game or trying to guess the factors that might have impacted your Google ranks, get your hands dirty and run an extensive website audit.

Start by getting your mobile phone and browsing around your site on a mobile data connection. Does everything work? Is it fast? Are there annoying popups that interrupt the experience? Do the sign-up forms work? Does the checkout work? What about those pesky floating social share buttons?

Audit the mobile experience top to bottom, not with a tool – but with your hands, eyes and brain.

Then start looking at things like site speed in more detail and things like internal linking (specifically which pages have the most internal links pointing to them, is this as expected?) as priority. You do have a current internal link building strategy, right?

Next look at Google Search Console, are there any errors? Is the index number as you expected? Have you got links coming from a staging site that got indexed? Do your internal links look right? Which pages were hit and which pages saw growth?

Then do a Google search for those winners and losers, observe the current top 10 on both your phone and computer – what do you see? What do they do better than you? Google is literally telling you what they want with their search results – so what do they want now that they didn’t want before?


6. Neil Patel | Neil Patel

Neil Patel came out with a blog post explaining his observations around the May 2020 update; and some suggestions on how to go about with your website SEO.

As a case in point, he quotes a sample set of websites that have been following the SEO best practices, and how they got hit by the May 2020 Core Update.

Q. Way forward for someone who got a hit? (reproduced from Neil Patel’s blog)

A. As per Neil Patel, it isn’t about winning on Google. 

SEO is about providing a better experience than your competition. 

He suggests to have that as the core focus and build a long term SEO strategy based on his 3 point mantra:-

  1. Update your content regularly
  2. Fix your thin content (do extensive competitor research)
  3. Fix your SEO errors

It isn’t about just publishing new content, you need to keep making your existing content event better.

While that’s not a sure shot strategy to safeguard against future algorithm updates, that’s by far the most legitimate & simple one.


Summarizing what the experts said

It will take some more time (and analysis) before we understand the factor(s) that Google tweaked as part of its May 2020 update.

But talk to any SEO expert and you will hear a unanimous viewpoint:-

#1. Focus on your SEO as a whole. It’s a game where the sum of parts is more than the whole.Right from technical SEO to onpage to offpage, everything fits in together to build an impact.

#2. Google’s goal is to build the best experience for its search users, and content plays the most crucial role (and so does onpage SEO). Audit your website frequently, cut down the flab, make the user experience even better and you don’t need to worry about the core updates.

#3. Start reading Google even more closely. You need to dissect why Google is ranking your competitors higher than your content. Understand what better they are doing (across content, UX, engagement, backlinks or anything else). You then need to learn from them and feed Google stuff that is better than the competition. There’s no escape from this.


Pro Tip

OnPage Champ not only helps you run extensive on-page optimization but also shows you the on-page SEO moves of the top ranking Google results. 

In addition, it also tracks what changes they are making week on week so that you can quickly learn their SEO best practices.

Track domains functionality May 2020 update

Try it out here.

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