The Plain-English Guide to Google’s May 2020 Core Update

If you've heard about the Google May 2020 Core Update but can't find a simple, plain-English guide to see if you'll be impacted, you've found it now! Discover what the update is, what caused it, what was affected and how to stop it impacting you.
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On 4 May 2020, Google announced they were commencing a rollout of the May 2020 Core Update. They advised the update would take up to two weeks, with John Mueller adding on Twitter the change was to improve search results for users.

However, the update was met with much criticism, with search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists believing Google should have delayed the update due to COVID-19. Regardless of the cause, website owners want to know how the update will impact their website and what they need to do.

In this guide to the May 2020 Core Update from Google, we show you what happened and what to do next so your website doesn’t take a hit during this crucial time.

Feature image by Juan Marcel Francia on Pixabay.

Google Announces May 2020 Core Update Via Twitter

What is a Google Core Update?

A Google Core Update is the name given when the world’s most popular search engine updates their algorithm and systems used to crawl and index websites. The purpose of these updates is to help improve the accuracy, security and reliability of search results.

To limit the manipulation of these updates, Google rarely reveals the specifics of what they have updated. As a result, website managers must monitor their analytics closely and put in place futuristic search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies to preempt updates.

Did COVID-19 influence the latest Google update?

As Google’s intention is to provide the most reliable, accurate and trustworthy content to users, it’s safe to say COVID-19 will have played some role in their May 2020 update. A good SEO specialist would understand why and have foreseen a coming update, like our own Head of SEO, Mike Andrew, did for our own clients.

When COVID-19 restrictions began taking place, search trends and volumes drastically changed. The intent of what users were looking for changed, as did the message they wanted to receive back, which we explored in depth in our recent SEO Tips Guide. Users began turning to businesses whose intent was to help their community, not take advantage of the situation.

This change in types of content people did not go unnoticed by good SEO specialists, and will not have been missed by Google.

What did Google update in May 2020?

The May 2020 Core Update is Google’s second update of the year. Like most other updates, Google has remained quiet on the specifics of what they updated, but the confirmation from John Mueller confirms their intent still remains the same — the user comes first.

All Google Core Updates are rolled out to better the experience of users using the search engine. A better experience refers to the results people receive to their queries being more specific to their intent. This also means the source of this content must be authoritative and trustworthy enough.

By focusing on improving the experience your own users have on your websites, you will remain in line with Google’s philosophy also. We discuss this in more detail below.

How do you know if a Google update impacted your website?

Before you assume a decrease in your website’s traffic is a result of a core update, you will want to consider if:

  • Only your organic traffic from Google has decreased. If yes, and no other sources of traffic have decreased, you may have been impacted by the core update.
  • You typically see a reduction this time of year, month or on weekends/weekdays.
  • You have implemented a COVID-19 SEO strategy or your industry/business has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Any of your higher-traffic pages have broken or been deactivated.

It’s important to remember website traffic fluctuates for many reasons and may not be the result of a core update. If you are also ensuring you are focusing on keeping your website accurate and relevant, with frequently updated content, you should be fine.

Top 5 Ways to Prepare Your Website for Google Updates

While no one knows what Google will update and when, you can always rely on them focusing on pleasing their search users, not website owners. By keeping this the focus of your SEO and future website updates, you can help stay in sync with Google. These are 5 things to remember when doing this.

1. Focus on user experience.

When building and updating your website, you need to forget your personal preferences and put yourself in your users’ shoes. This can be tricky to do, but using A/B testing, also known as split testing, will help you refine your website over time.

A few key things to test include different:

  • Button colours and text.
  • Brand colours.
  • Call to action text.
  • Above-the-fold layout.
  • Form positioning and text.

You will also want to avoid common website errors, like:

  • Correctly redirecting inactive pages or links.
  • Not using alt text and captions on images.
  • Using too many focal colours or distracting fonts.
  • Having too little or too much text.
  • Slow page speed.

2. Make your website easy for Google to crawl.

When Google sends its spider into your website to check it out, it enters via the top left and crawls left to right, top to bottom. It will then follow any links in your website to access all of its pages. You want to ensure Google can do this with ease.

To make it easier for Google to crawl your website:

  • Use page breadcrumbs.
  • Ensure your website navigation is easy for users.
  • Have a good internal-linking structure.
  • Utilise a sitemap.
  • Remove unnecessary code.
  • Structure your headings correctly.

3. Build your website for desktop and mobile.

2019 Localsearch Website User Data

In 2019, 58.57% of all users on our clients’ websites were on a mobile or tablet device. Knowing this information, in 2020 Google began indexing the mobile version of a website before the desktop version.

However, websites are not automatically built to be used on mobile. A responsive website is the name given to websites built to work as effectively on mobile as it does on a desktop. This requires a developer to ensure it is done correctly.

When you don’t build a mobile friendly website, your user will come across many issues, including:

  • Images, videos, text and other media running off screen.
  • Buttons not working correctly.
  • Pop-ups occurring when they shouldn’t.
  • Pages loading slowly.
  • Things moving when they shouldn’t.

4. Create a regular content strategy.

The more often you can have Google naturally entering and crawling your website the better. To encourage them to do this, you want to be posting high-quality, relevant content as frequently as possible. Normally one to two times a week will suffice.

However, you don’t only want to be posting your content and leaving it. You also want to be posting this fresh content in other places; especially your Google My Business (GMB). Mike Andrew, Head of SEO here at Localsearch, revealed during his latest Facebook Live how our clients have seen an increased index rate by posting the responding article on their GMB profile. 

You can catch the Live over on our Facebook.

5. Increase your expertise, authority and trust.

Google wants to know you can provide their users with expert, authoritative content they can trust. There are many ways to do this, but some of the basics include ensuring you:

  • Have backlinks directed to your website.
  • Write informative, holistic content.
  • Publish relevant content answering your target audience’s questions.
  • Have a secure website, including having an SSL certificate.
  • Source high-authority articles and content, where relevant.

And more.

If you believe your website has been affected by the May 2020 Core Update, you will want to put a plan of action in place as soon as possible. Our Digital Marketing Specialists would love to offer you some free advice and recommendations to help you. Contact us now to request a callback.

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