After two months of recess, the SEO community braced for yet another Google Broad Core Algorithm Update. Announcing the roll-out of the latest core update, the Official Search Liaison Twitter handle said, the update has started rolling out across different data centers.
The roll-out, like all other typical broad core algorithm updates, took a week to complete, and the impact took some time to reflect on the results.
Unlike the daily updates that Google launches, the broad core algorithm update has vast implications as it is notorious for shuffling the organic results, causing fluctuations in the organic rankings of websites.
However, there is no quick fix if a broad core algorithm update hits you, says Google. The reason for the decline in the organic ranking is not because your website has serious SEO issues, but it is the result of Google finding better results for the search query.
Listen to my discussion with Senthil Kumar, VP, Stan Ventures about the impact of Google May Core Algorithm Update:
Senthil: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of SEO on Air. Today I have with me my colleague, Dileep. And this is the first time we’re collaborating on this (podcast). Dileep is our content head and takes care of the Stan Ventures web content.
Most of you who are listening to this will be aware of the rank for most of the competing keywords when it comes to Google algorithm updates. So it’s the time of the year where Google releases these algorithm updates and you may see a bump in your web traffic. Well, that doesn’t really mean it’s all because of the algorithm update, as it could as well be seasonal traffic. So, we are here to discuss what this algorithm update is about and what it can cause.
So, I and Dileep came up with the podcast idea just five minutes back (we were having a conversation about what’s happening out there). It’s a very ad hoc, impromptu podcast, I would say. Anyway, Dileep, welcome to the show, man.
Dileep: Thank you. Thank you.
Senthil: The topic for today’s discussion is the Google algorithm update. The core algorithm update is very special because it’s a rock-solid one. They (Google) waited for two months and then released it.
Dileep: Yes. So now they have a definite pattern for launching the algorithm updates, at least the core one. The last one was launched in March, the other in Jan. So definitely we can expect a broad core algorithm update during the period of every two-months.
Within the SEO community, many SEO forums were discussing Google postponing the update because of COVID. However, I think Google had its own plans.
So this time, if you check the fluctuations after the May broad core update, they are huge. There was a big launch last year, the BERT. It was said that almost 10% of the global search will have its impact, but you can’t see much fluctuation.
However, compared to the last three or four Google algorithm updates, this one has high fluctuation. This means some websites, which were ranking on top, have definitely felt the heat. Some well-maintained websites may have improved their rankings, but a handful of websites that were ranking on the first page or the featured snippet have definitely felt an impact of this update.
Senthil: I did notice that because I was tracking a few high-value keywords last week in an insurance article for a prospective client. We were doing an SEO audit and trying to figure out what they were ranking for. When talks began, they were in the sixth position, and after we submitted the proposal, they were in the third position. They were pretty happy about it.
But one thing that I noticed was that earlier, the first and second position was dominated by really good brands in the industry. The prospective client was in the third position while other data aggregators like Policy Bazaar were ranking in the fifth and sixth places.
After this update, these big brand websites have gone down the ranking scale and the data aggregating sites with some really good content have climbed up the ladder. It’s a weakness because, instead of tracking the services pages of websites for keywords related to money, Google is choosing to focus on sites with huge chunks of detailed content.
Dileep: I think that’s pretty good because Google is tracking for the users. So, for example, the guy who lost his ranking for a money-related keyword may rank on his features page for the same keyword. However, if a user clicks on the site and finds the information useless, he/she will definitely click back to the search page and find the right site for their needs. So this is basically Google collecting information from users over time, using tactics like this where the user closes one site and opens another, and letting them know what they want ranking on SERPs.
That’s why there is always a gap of two to three months when they launch the Broad core update. If you check on a daily basis, Google launches two to three updates every now and then. Last year alone, there were almost 900,000 updates launched.
Coming back to the money keyword, we have to understand that the user typing the keyword is not considering it as one. He wants something else, and that’s why the blogs are ranking now.
Senthil: So, let me share my screen and do a quick check. I think you’ve already added a detailed analysis on this, so let’s do a quick walkthrough. For people who are listening to this, we’ll be adding this podcast on the blog post as well for your perusal.
Dileep: The day the update was launched, there were no major fluctuations in rankings. What usually happens is that after Google rolls out the update, its effects start showing over the next few days.
It was on May 4th that Danny Sullivan, through his official Google account, announced that they were going to launch the new update. But when I checked the Moz and SemRush sensors on that particular day, both these tools were not showing much fluctuation.
It was on May 4th that they announced the update, but the fluctuation started from May 5th.
Senthil: Yeah. I can see a big tower here.
Dileep: Actually, there is a bigger update, which you can see if you Google SEMRush sensor, and it has caused huge fluctuation in rankings.
Usually, the algorithm updates are launched across multiple data centers. On May 5th, when it was just rolled out, the SEMRush sensor was at 7.7, and you can see a huge spike on May 6th.
Senthil: Yeah, just shot up like anything.
Dileep: So this huge spike in rank fluctuations is something that I haven’t seen for at least one and a half years. It can be a good indicator that many websites have been hit by the update. You can also see all the categories that have got hit.
Senthil: So it’s clearly not a regular update. When it comes to Google core algorithm updates, it’s across industries. It’s not like an EAT update or YMYL update where only the money websites, insurance, healthcare, and other similar websites were affected.
But if you look at a broad core algorithm update, you can easily figure out that by looking at this itself, you can look at all the categories. Almost everybody has taken a hit, right? This gives you a sense that this is definitely a broad core algorithm update.
So the local pack, obviously, because of the COVID and other reasons, might have taken a hit, but look at this knowledge panel, the growth by 32.2%.
Dileep: And also, if you check for some individual niches, you can see there’s a huge drop in featured snippet positions during that particular day.
But it has picked up after they rolled out the update completely. So this means that they have made some fresh changes to what they are displaying on the featured snippet data. So if you’ll just select one of the top niches in that, go to finance or even health.
Senthil: Yeah. Let’s look at health care because that’s the department where last year, the update hit them. The local pack has taken a hit by 1.2%
Dileep: So you can see how the featured snippet has been packed at this thing climb, which is showing, that is how the featured snippets, so that day when they launched that date, the featured snippet went down. Like anything. So that means they really did some refresh on the feature snippet area, and now we can see it is normalizing.
One thing about featured snippets is you can see that they are getting the user’s inputs. They have a feedback area for all the features in the search results displayed. They get feedback from the users and they use it whenever they do a broad core algorithm update. That’s what I have seen while analyzing the past few updates that they have rolled out.
A feature snippet position is something that no website owner can say, “I am ranking on the featured snippet and I will be ranking there for the rest of the year.” You can’t predict it because this is something that Google decides and based on many factors, which they obviously have not revealed.
But yeah, there are techniques in which you can optimize your content to rank on featured snippets, which most of the website owners are also trying to do.
So the position of the featured snippet is something that is kind of volatile when an algorithm update is launched.
Senthil: Let’s look at mobile as well. The data might be skewed anyways because COVID 19 is there and there will be naturally a decrease.
Dileep: The problem is that the user’s mentality for search has changed over the last two months. There are a lot of daily updates that they are rolling out. So, based on that, they are tweaking the search results on a daily basis.
There are chances that some of the niches, before even launching this particular update, were facing some kind of fluctuation in their ranking because the user intent kind of changed after the COVID incident.
Senthil: Absolutely. So I think the best thing for whoever has lost the rankings, I know some, I mean, there are always winners and losers and it changes.
So if you’ve won, congratulations. Enjoy the cake and enjoy the victory. But the people who have been building so far and have lost the rankings, I don’t think we should panic. I think there’s not much that you can do about it. Probably, you can get back to the basics. Try to check the spammy links, try to look at the person that outranks you. Look at that page and look at the content styling.
Dileep, what I feel is when people are looking at it, they miss the point that “what is the intent?” Why did Google outrank it? For example, at the beginning of the conversation, I told you. This was a money page where it is trying to sell an insurance product.
But the website that has outranked this website has a page which talks about top 10 insurance products that you can buy. And it has a really good comparison. So I think the intent shift is there. Instead of thinking that you should add all your content on the service page, maybe you can rethink the strategy, look at the search results and figure out what Google prefers to show more.
Maybe if they are gonna show more blog pages, then maybe it’s time for you to recheck if any blog on your website has the capacity to go and try to do that. Because if you’re still stuck with the money page, then probably, it might work or it might not.
So it’s always better to have your link man in place so that if anything happens and you know, you still have a lifeline to save you.
Dileep: I think one of the reasons why people try to put these kinds of money keywords for the service pages itself is because the number of conversions that happen from a blog page probably might be a little less than the service page.
So that is probably the thought process. But here, the intent is different than the user who is coming from a blog based content will never buy a product from your website. So he’s in the top of the funnel probably, like we say in marketing. So he’s just exploring the options. Even if you are ranking for the keyword on the featured snippet, I don’t think the person will buy the product from you.
He will again go back, he will do his research and probably, later on in the stage of his marketing funnel, he might come back again. But again, at the initial stage, he will not. So ideally, if that is the case, then I would prefer having a blog rather than my service page.
Senthil: Absolutely. You’re right. Actually, the money keyword is still there. Money keywords, like for example buy with a particular name, the ranking still hasn’t changed. But the ranking has changed for the top of the funnel informative keywords. So I think the change is now Google itself is trying to realign themselves into saying hey if you’re an insurance company, don’t go after the keyword insurance. That’s all. That’s what Google is trying to say.
If it’s like insurance, it means the intent of the user is to look at multiple comparisons. So even if you’re a big brand so far, you might have won that cushion layer from Google because Google thinks the best brands should always rank, but now I think that is getting decimated with this.
So basically, they want to keep the users happy. That’s how Google earns. So if the user is not happy, then they are losing their own money. So they want to make users as happy as possible.
They have all the ways to understand whether the user is happy or not. They can check the time spent on the page, the bounce rate; these are all signals that Google already has to measure whether the user is happy or not. So there is no way we can trick it. I think the thought process should be to align ourselves with the intent of the user.
Just forget about Google, let’s just forget about Google for the time being, and just try to focus on your user. If your user is coming for something, which is probably a blog post, you provide him that rather than putting your service page upfront.
Senthil: So hopefully, yes. Guys, that summarizes the discussion. So, if you are affected by this algorithm update, please don’t panic. Just look at who has outranked you. Look at what intent that website satisfies and ensure that you’re able to match up to that expectation. And for God’s sake, don’t go after the single keywords. Go after the keywords that solve the intent.
That is exactly what Google is trying to do. Don’t try to be Wikipedia. Try to be a brand. You’re there to make money, so whatever pages that make you money, try to focus on the page and don’t go after the tons of other things out there.
So that summarizes this discussion. Thank you so much, everyone. So Dileep, you have anything else to add before I wind up this podcast?
Dileep: One more thing, I think there are a lot of people who are in panic mode because I am seeing a lot of comments on our Google algorithm update page, telling that they are almost on the verge of closing down their business because of this update. So what I would like to tell them is this is something that is probably a phase in your digital marketing platform. So basically, it can turn around within the next algorithm update.
So what usually happens is once the algorithm update is launched, then after two or three days, Google would analyze whether the update has hit some genuine websites. So what they used to do is they used to roll back whatever negative things were there within the update.
Senthil: Like a refresh. They usually release it after a couple of weeks. So your job is not lost yet, guys. So don’t worry. There will definitely be a refresh coming up and the good sites that got knocked down by this, they will get their thing back. But that also depends on who outranked you. So if that outranked guy is better than you, then that is a very little chance.
Dileep: Yeah, but again, if they keep on trying to improve upon their content, I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to rank when the next broad core algorithm is launched. So Google itself says a majority of the sites who are hit by a broad core algorithm update, they can only recover when another broad core algorithm update is launched.
So basically, just wait for another two months. Do a good job, continue producing good quality content, and then you’ll have a sure shot of ranking again.
Senthil: Absolutely. Great. Thanks, man. It was a good conversation. So anyone having any questions around this, please feel free to leave your comments.
We’ll do our best to get back to you. Dileep will answer whatever technical things that you guys have. Feel free to give a shout out and hopefully, we get through this. Already COVID on one side and the core algorithm on the other side. Tough times actually make the best businesses, so if you’re able to survive the next two months, you can survive at least for a while.
So all the best guys! Feel free to share your comments, and don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. I’m just trying to become like the YouTubers. Anyway, thank you so much. Have a nice day.
The only way for websites that are impacted by the broad core update is to improve the quality of the content and its authority.
We did a quick analysis of the popular algorithm trackers and the impact of the Broad Core Update seems significant. Here are a few screenshots.
We will keep you posted with all insights about the May 2020 Core Update.