Google’s May 2020 Core Update: The Winners and Losers

“May the Fourth” be with you — this is the phrase Star Wars fans look forward to saying on May 4th; it is typically a happy day. But alas, Google decided to shake up the day a bit…like an AT-AT walker showing up at your door.

On May 4, Google’s Danny Sullivan 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, no cute animals to imagine — just the facts.

Uncovering the May 2020 Core Update

The previous core algorithm update was released back in January. However, the world, and search, has witnessed some drastic changes since that time.

Although it takes about two weeks to fully roll it out, we can already see that this latest Core Update appears to be a pretty big one. With the world’s volatility skyrocketing, the newest Google Core Update seems to bring unprecedented SERP volatility as well. Here is some data from SEMrush Sensor:

While January’s core update only led to average volatility of 8 points, on May 6, almost every category showed peaking volatility rates — from 9 to 9.4 points. So, the May core update appears to be much stronger and influencing more SERPs and positions.

Something to keep in mind with these updates, you need to give this update time to complete before panicking. 

Who’s On the Winning and Losing Side of the May 2020 Core Update?

Keep in mind that broad core algorithm updates are designed to bring about noticeable changes within search results across all countries and languages, but there were winners and losers in the SERPs.

It is inevitable to spot some ranking drops and gains once a core update gets fully rolled out. Certainly, during the pandemic, we expect to see user queries related to travel, tourism, live events, etc., to be significantly down. So, many of the categories’ volatility would come as no surprise.

However, the highest impact from this algo update, at this point, occurs across several industries, including some of those already impacted by the pandemic.

With the help of SEMrush Sensor, we compared the average volatility value 7 days before and 2 days after the Update announcement. And, the most influenced categories are Travel, Real Estate, Health, Pets & Animals, and People & Society. This is true across both desktop and mobile searches.

We have also spotted that many big domains were highly affected. Around half of the significant ranking changes within the US occurs at websites with traffic exceeding 1 million monthly visitors.

SERP Winners (an obituary site) gained positions (+13 positions up on average) and popularity with this update. But, of course, the biggest winner is the News sector.

With everyone’s constant gaze at the news in the last few months, many media outlets are gaining unmatched user attention, but it appears that whatever they are doing has worked well, and they are being rewarded in this update.

Let’s take a look at the biggest winner from the News category, IndianExpress:

And, regarding the Business sector, it was interesting to see PR outlets gaining some significant ranking traction — sites like Businesswire, PR Newswire, and GlobeNewswire have gained around 50+ positions each.

SERP Losers

Clearly, the offline Entertainment industry has taken a big hit, and sadly with this update, so are the websites that were related to it. Eventbrite, the “it-place” for those seeking some offline fun, has lost around 44 positions.

Industries That Dropped:

Here is a breakdown of the industries that saw the most significant drop in their organic positions:

What About LinkedIn?

Yes, LinkedIn disappeared from the SERPs for a short while and saw some major dips, but it had nothing to do with the core update. A mistake was made that many folks have made, just perhaps not on a site this large. 🙂

Worried about your rankings slipping?

You can set up custom triggers in your Position Tracking campaign that will automatically email you when your rankings slip a certain distance (indicated by you).

What Now?

If you are wondering how to navigate through this storm, Google’s guidelines on the update remain the same (we recommend you read them).

In a nutshell, Google’s mantra has always been that there is not much you can do about an algorithm update and changes in rankings, except to keep improving your content quality. Google stated about core updates, “They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.”

So, now is the time to evaluate whether or not your content is up authoritative, helpful to users, formatted in a way to help search engines and users, and to make sure SEO mistakes are fixed and avoided. Check out our site audit tool to see if you can see any potential issues.

Then spend some time creating content that is better than industry-standard and provide search engines and your target audience with all the information — facts, tips, and data — they need to answer a query.

Last thing. I urge you, wait until the full update is done rolling out before making any large decisions about changing your website — unless you are doing something that violates Google Guidelines and you need to fix it. Keep an eye on @SearchLiaison; he should announce when the rollout is done. Also, watch what Gary Illyes has to say.

Have you spotted any changes in your rankings and the overall SERP due to the May 2020 Core Update? Let us know in the comments below.

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