Google’s May 2020 Core Update

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Google announced it is rolling out a new core update on Monday, May 4th, 2020 (Starwars Day). This is the second core update of the 2020 year, the first one was the January 2020 core update.

Historically, Google has released a core Google algorithm update every few months or so. It was just a bit over 3-months ago since the January core update.

Each time Google updates its algorithm, it’s moving a step forward in making the search experience easier and more relevant to the users. However, as SEO professionals, we get entangled with questions from clients on why the update caused fluctuation in rankings.

Second Update of 2020

After three months on hiadus, the SEO community and businesses alike have to brace for yet another Google Broad Core Algorithm Update.

Google said “Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.”

Search results continue to churn three days after the May 4th announcement. Google warned it may take a couple weeks to settle.

Most updates settle fairly quickly with minor changes along the way – this update is different.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that this update is big.

Here is just a partial list of what areas are affected:

  • Local search businesses
  • Health related sites
  • Rolling out worldwide
  • Multiple languages simultaneously

The changes are felt by many and the results seemingly change hour to hour and day to day.

Why Updates Cause Ranking Volatility

One of the reasons the search results become volatile is because it may take some time to roll out the changes to all the data centers globally. When your browser hits a data center it could be receiving old data or the new data.

Another reason to explain the constant changes is because there are multiple factors that are changing and the machine learning has to re-learn everything.

COVID-19 is also affecting volatility

With many local businesses now temporarily closed, the local search results are witnessing many changes. The Google Map Pack is currently subjected to high-volatility due to the COVID-19 circumstances.

Never before in the history has Google seen so many queries for one topic.

Google Search has never seen as many searches for a single topic continue over a sustained period as is happening now with COVID-19. Many searches are for news about what’s happening in local areas, such as sheltering updates or the latest on testing. Here’s how we’re helping….— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 4, 2020

So we will see more local news stories come up in our feeds.

However, we believe that this is a passing phase, and things will normalize once the threat of COVID-19 is over. We are all looking up to that day and hope you and your family are safe during these difficult times.

Who is Affected By the Google Update?

SEMRush data showed the industries most impacted were travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society. Here is the chart of breakdown volatility by industry from SEMRush:

Local Search Fluctuations

There are many reports that mention fluctuations in local type search results.

One person tweeted a graphic that shows local search has been in flux since late April 2020

Sites with thin content

Another point is that there are multiple reports of thin content losing positions. Whether they are losing positions because of their thin content or for other reasons has not been determined.

Worldwide Update Rollout

Google’s update appears to be affecting SERPs worldwide. Reports on WebmasterWorld indicate volatility from Canada to Europe to Australia simultaneously.

What to do now?

What to do if you are hit. Google has given advice on what to consider if you are negatively impacted by a core update in the past. There aren’t specific actions to take to recover, and in fact, a negative rankings impact may not signal anything is wrong with your pages. However, Google has offered a list of questions to consider if your site is hit by a core update.

Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before. Please see this blog post for more about that:— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 4, 2020

Do Updates Focus on Quality?

Google always aspires to not rank low quality sites. What matters most is whether a web page satisfies a user when they make any particular search query.

Google doesn’t rank a web page because it’s on a high quality site. It ranks a web page because it is relevant.


It’s important to wait until the search results settle down before making any changes.

Keep an eye out for sites that are winners and try to understand why those sites have succeeded. This means staying up to date on your competitors.

It’s best to view the changes through the lens and instead see how your site compares with the search intent or your target keywords or phrases

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