Google Search Completes May Core Update, Some See Challenges Ahead

Google announced Monday on Twitter it completed rolling out the May 2020 core search update developers began implementing earlier this month.

Pete Meyers, a marketing scientist at Moz, found Google's May 2020 Core Update was the second-most-turbulent Core Update to date, coming in just below the August 2018 “Medic” update. This is analyzed by MozCast, which uses weather analogies to measure turbulence in the Google algorithm, or how brands show up in search results. 

Search & Performance Marketing Daily reached out to Meyers to get the details around the month-long deployment.

S&PMD:What was the purpose of this core update and how does it differ from those in the past?

Pete Meyers:  The truth is there's a lot more that we collectively don't know than we know, and Google doesn't assign a theme or purpose to any given core update. In general, we think the ‘core’ updates are tied to more fundamental aspects of how Google works, including the engine that determines if content is relevant to a certain topic. Some past core updates impacted so-called YMYL, Your Money or Your Life-type of sites, including financial sites and healthcare information, but that was less clear in the May update.

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S&PMD:  What is the biggest challenge to this update for brands and websites? 

Meyers:  There seems to be a strong connection between the May core update and changing search patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. We're seeing consumer behavior being rewritten on a global scale, and that's heavily impacting search. Those challenges dwarf the core update at this point. The changes businesses need to make to survive the economic shutdown should also help them weather this core update. Google is trying to evolve as consumer behavior changes.

S&PMD:  Why was it a challenge, and how do they fix it?

Meyers:  These changes and challenges are going to be with us for months or years. Google reflects the real world in real-time and seismic shifts in the real world will cause seismic shifts in search. There's no easy answer to that.

S&PMD: Where are the one-day winners now?

Meyers:  The one-day winners and losers, especially for the May update, are pretty misleading. We saw large shifts on days two and three of the update, in some cases, reversed day-one changes. in other cases, we saw increased in day-one changes, so it's tricky. When we compared the seven days before the core update to the seven days after, some of the big winners in our data set included Google Play (+93%), Parents.com (+46%), Apple App Store (+45%), and Pinterest (+42%). While the evidence is anecdotal at this point, it's interesting to note that many of the big winners reflect behavior we'd expect to see more of during quarantine (like downloading apps).

S&PMD:  Who were the biggest losers and why? 

Meyers:  Again, comparing the seven days before to the seven days after, some notable losers were BabyCenter.com (-64%), CreditKarma (-46%), Grubhub (-36%), and Motley Fool (-35%). Note that LinkedIn suffered a massive one-day drop during the May update, but this appears to have been a major technical error, and it recovered just a day later.

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