Google regularly updates its search results algorithm to ensure increased accuracy of the results. On a similar note, on May 4th of this year, Google made some “core” changes to its algorithm. This roll-out was completed within a span of two weeks, on the 18th of May, as reported by Google’s SearchLiasion Twitter handle.
This is in fact the second major update by Google this year. In January, an update was rolled out, but there is no clear idea about its impact on listings and rankings as yet. However, the coronavirus crisis has drastically changed what people are searching for, and this has prompted Google to make this major update in a short span of time.
The new update seems to have affected a lot of websites’ rankings. This is how volatility in SERP looked around the time of the Google update going live, as seen on SEMrush Sensor.
The areas in the orange and red color indicate volatility, as compared to the serenity displayed by the greens and the blues.
What happened during this update?
Through this update, Google seems to have become better at identifying and surfacing relevant links on SERPs, based on the search queries. Two major updates that Google has worked upon include the changes made to the E-A-T& aspect of the algorithm, and increase in the qualityof search results.
Changes to E-A-T
A major update seems to have been done to the aspect of the algorithm that defines E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust). However, strong E-A-T signals haven’t actually seen a rise in rankings and traffic. Rather, for Expertise, websites that have done better have content that discusses relevant first hand experiences. In terms of Authority, many smaller and non-authoritative sites have seen improvements, and in a few rare cases, have outpaced authoritative sites in ranking. Trustworthiness has also received a re-look from Google.
For example, for an undisclosed medical information site, it saw its traffic jump post the May 4th update, even though no major changes to content were done in the recent past. However, on a closer look at one of its articles explaining eyelid bumps, it was found that the content was genuine, authoritative, easy to read and frequently updated. Its comments section was also filled with people describing their genuine experiences on the topic.
Given all this, some speculate this update has created many “small winners”.
Focusing on the Quality of results
To ensure quality of the results shown, pages that have put up all relevant SEO keywords, without really creating quality content on the page have seen themselves become irrelevant through this new update.
So who are the Winners and the Losers?
It is very clear for Google that only relevant and trustworthy content gets more traffic. As global lockdowns started getting enforced, habits and lifestyles changed overnight. For example, with schools all over the world being shut, and parents having to manage their children while also working-from-home, websites such as Parents.com and whattoexpect.com have seen more engagement. Lower engagement automatically translates into reduced traffic, as experienced by verywellfamily.com, which, post the update, ranked the last among the three.
For example, for Parents.com, for the month of May, its organic traffic grew by 40%, and there was a day-on-day increase of 56% on May 5th, as the update went live.
Google’s own websites and online properties have received a tremendous boost and are becoming increasingly dominant in SERP. For example, Play Store has seen a rise in its SEO visibility, even though the absolute increase in Playstore’s SEO visibility for May has been only around 16%.
What industries were affected?
The average change in the volatilities of all website categories, for a week before and after the update, was 4.5. However, the industries that exhibited exceptionally more than average volatility included travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society. The News category has seen the least amount of volatility.
Shortcomings of the update
Needless to say, the update is far from perfect, and has received some flak from webmasters and SEO experts. One major complaint was that social media search results were clogging up the SERPs. Something like this.
Another issue was that big brands such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy got a huge boost and were seeing a higher number of listings on the SERPs. This suggests that smaller online sellers may face the heat, and bigger brands may get a bump through this update.
There is widespread consensus among SEO experts that this “core” update was around the E-A-T aspect of Google’s algorithm. To ensure minimum negative impact, here’s what Google simply suggests: “We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.”