The digital marketing news headlines lately have been focused a lot on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was also a Google core update that started rolling out on May 4, which is the primary focus of this week’s bonus news roundup segment in this week’s episode of the EDGE. The latest features host Erin Sparks and Creative Studio Producer Jacob Mann along with special guests Mordy Oberstein, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Rank Ranger as well as Lily Ray of Path Interactive. Here’s the bonus news roundup from Episode 354 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast:
Google’s May 2020 core update was big and broad, search data tools show
From Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land we learn that Google’s May 2020 core update was big and broad, search data tools show. On May 4th, Google began rolling out the May 2020 core update. We know it can take up to a couple of weeks to fully roll out, but based on everything we have seen so far this update is a very big broad update.
- Erin Sparks: For his article, Barry reached out to you, Mordy to get your take, and you called the update “an abosolute monster.” Tell us more from your perspective.
- Mordy Oberstein: On the first day of the rollout, it seemed like the update was surprisingly small, which had people thinking maybe Google was going to take it easy on SEOs given all the stress around the pandemic. But then on the second day volatility and visibility spikes were just enormous. We’re talking about 10% fluctuations for top search results in some cases, which is monstrous. Others have seen 10%-20% fluctuations, and even more in some cases. To put that in perspective, your average Google update might result in 1%-3% fluctuations, so this has been really big.
- Erin Sparks: One of the frustrating things is how different everyone’s lists are of categories of sites that have been affected, and in many cases each list is also changing as the rollout continues and impacts shift around among categories of sites. So this one’s going to have a long burn and SEOs need to stay on top of their data and how it’s changing. But that’s all going to get unpacked during the deep-dive interview since it’s the main topic of today’s show.
550 Winners and Losers of Google’s May 2020 Core Algorithm Update
According to Lily Ray on Path Interactive, here are 550 Winners and Losers of Google’s May 2020 Core Algorithm Update. She used the Sistrix U.S. visibility index to analyze a list of 550 domains that have seen impacts from previous core algorithm updates. The visibility index provides a value for the visibility of a domain in Google’s U.S. search results. The data was pulled between Monday, May 4, 2020 and Friday, May 8, 2020.
- Erin Sparks: Lily, tell us about your analysis process that you went through to come up with your conclusions on how this core update affected the different domains you looked at.
- Lily Ray: It’s important to understand this isn’t an analysis of the all the domains Sistrix tracks, just a sampling. My sample includes a bunch of sites I track in order to understand the impacts of Google updates, ones I know have invested heavily in E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trust), ones that I know try to keep up with what we think Google wants to see more of, and also a bunch of hand-picked sites to get representation across different categories, especially lately as it relates to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Erin Sparks: So what’s your initial take on this update, given that we often don’t see all the impacts for a good two or three weeks.
- Lily Ray: Yes, my initial analysis only covers what I saw from May 4 through May 8, and it’s going to change and be updated over the next couple weeks. What’s interesting is that quite a few sites who seemed to be doing well in previous updates and were looked to as examples of what Google wants to see, have declined in this latest update. But the converse is also true in terms of sites that saw declines in previous updates have seen some upticks in this one. This is why analyzing this in terms of takeaways is really hard to do. In some cases it feels like Google has dialed back a little on some of their previous desires for sites. Some sites that seemed less trustworthy in previous updates are seeing upticks in this update, which is always surprising and puzzling. Rather than calling those “reversals,” which is a controversial term in the SEO world, I call them “recalibrations.”
- Erin Sparks: But you did see a lot of volatility in YMYL (your money, your life) sites, though of course we also have to consider the huge impacts of the COVID-19 impact on all of this as well as it’s important to get COVID-related news in front of people. And Barry Schwartz just tweeted recently that it doesn’t look like local SEO was impacted much by this update. What would you consider the big winners and losers in terms of what you’re seeing the percentages you analyzed?
- Lily Ray: There were some big winners in the addition and recovery space, specifically addictionsandrecovery.com, but you have to keep that in perspective because that site saw big declines in recent years, so in spite of big gains in this update doesn’t mean they’re even back to where they used to be. Same thing with whfoods.com, a guy who publishes a lot of content about nutrition. His site was negatively impacted be several previous updates but he saw a 56% bump up in this update so far. Interestingly, some of the fact-check sites like Snopes saw some declines.
- Erin Sparks: I’ve been wondering if the shifts in search behavior caused by the pandemic are what elicited this latest update.
- Lily Ray: I’ve wondered that too, but it’s hard to tell. Take Snopes, for example. They were ranking well before, especially with their COVID conspiracy theories content, but have declined in this update, but not necessarily because they’ve done anything wrong but because other sites like Reuters and CNN have been catching up on publishing a lot of that kind of content, so Snopes has been “naturally” pushed down. And Google relaxed some of its requirements for local news sites if they’re publishing trustworthy COVID content. So it does seem like COVID is driving at least some of this update.
- Erin Sparks: Does this mean in the future we’ll see more Google updates driven by topical events such as a global pandemic? Or at least a “recalibration?”
- Lily Ray: In a way we were already seeing that organically, right? So it makes sense that Google would respond in some way to the shifts in consumer behavior caused by something big like a pandemic to make sure consumers are getting what they need, so Google is rewarding sites that do so in this update. It’s logical, really. But it’s still hard to say for sure.
- Erin Sparks: And yet isn’t also kind of a tough time for businesses to have to deal with this kind of update?
- Lily Ray: Yes, with all the extreme economic impacts of the pandemic, my clients who have seen declines are just feel like, “Really? You’re doing this to us NOW?” But there are all the sites who have seen great increases in their visibility and are very happy with this update.
- Erin Sparks: It’s always a mixed bag.
Yelp and Shopify release omni-channel updates during COVID-19
On IMPACT, Vin Gaeta reports Yelp and Shopify release omni-channel updates during COVID-19. Two big names in the e-commerce and retail industry pushed out updates specifically targeted at omni-channel needs in today’s world. The releases from Shopify and Yelp are specifically intended to help SMBs get the most out of their omni-channel approach to better serve their customers.
- Erin Sparks: So these updates at Yelp and Shopify are all geared particularly to helping smaller and medium-sized businesses reach people during the pandemic, and especially with pandemic-related content concerning services and products and so forth.
- Mordy Oberstein: This looks a lot like the kinds of updates Google has been doing to local search panel and local service ads related to the pandemic so people can see the latest information about accommodations businesses are making during the outbreak. And that’s all good stuff.
Connect with Mordy Oberstein and Rank Ranger
Twitter: @MordyOberstein (https://twitter.com/MordyOberstein)
Rank Ranger Twitter: @RankRanger (https://twitter.com/rankranger)
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