May 2020

What happened?

In January’s Core Update, medical and financial websites were affected the most in an effort to let the most genuine and helpful sites rise to the top.

However, Google realised that it didn’t quite go to plan and needed to adjust the rankings slightly in May’s Core Update instead of doing anything new (good job too, with the pandemic ruining everything as it is).

All sites were affected with varying degrees of positive and negative changes. Some barely changed at all.

May was a highly volatile month for rankings overall, where sites were all over the place. Many were complaining that it just isn’t the time to change anything when businesses were affected badly already.

As you can see in the graph below from Advanced Web Ranking, the beginning of May shows a spike in volatility of rankings straight after a Core Update from Google (grey bar). This demonstrates just how unstable rankings were for all websites, which settles down not long after.

During a period of highly volatile rankings, you may witness your website increase or decrease its position on Google, where traffic — and therefore revenue — change.

Volatility of rankings shows a spike where Google made an update

Action needed

Nothing new, but make sure you pay attention to the ranking factors below.

Ranking factors

These are the most recent techniques that you should be implementing to appear on the first page of Google.

Content

Creating new content (usually in the form of a blog) shows Google that there’s activity on the site and it’s not some shrivelled up, out of date, waste of time. Too harsh? There’s a lot of them out there though, and they’re slipping down the order and becoming harder to find because of it.

Websites date quickly, and those who don’t invest time and money in one regularly are going to be left behind — not only by Google but also from visitors who don’t see much point being there.

That final point is a biggie — creating content that people want to stay and consume will tell Google that they’ve found what they were looking for and it should be shown at the top for that particular phrase they just typed in.

Brand strength

If you invest a lot into your website, it’ll eventually become something that people remember — they will visit it directly or search for the name. This tells Google that your website is something they should be taking more and more seriously, and if this happens more often than your competitors then you’ll rise to the top of page one.

User Signals (CTR, Pogo-Sticking, and Dwell Time)

These are signals that Google collect on the behaviour of users and the specific actions they take.

CTR (Click-Through Rate): If your website is at the top of page one but most people are clicking on your competitors’ links underneath, you’ll find that yours will slip down the page. So make sure you have interesting and descriptive Meta Titles and Descriptions for every page. If you use WordPress, then add the Yoast plugin — they’ll show you a preview of the titles and descriptions when editing each Page or Post. If you don’t use WordPress then there’ll be a plugin or extension available to do the same thing on your system of choice.

Pogo-Sticking: It used to be called Bounce Rate, but that can be fine these days where people click through to a blog post, get the information they need, then leave. The real problem is when they don’t find what they’re looking for on your site and go back to Google to find another site. This action tells Google that the other site is more informative about the specific subject and should, therefore, be above you in the order. The moral of the story? Choose one keyword/phrase to target and give as much interesting information about it as you can on that one page. So, be specific on what you’re writing about, otherwise, it’ll be ten thousand words long.

Dwell Time: The amount of time that someone spends on the page before returning to Google. A few seconds will tell Google that you didn’t offer what they were looking for. Conversely, staying a while to consume the content will mean that you’ve done a good job. Pro tip: Add the keyword in a few places within the first hundred words to reinforce the notion that they made the right decision visiting your page. A highly relevant video would help even more — preferably one that you’ve created, uploaded to YouTube, and embedded on your page.

All of these actions give Google a more rounded story of which websites should be above others.

Adjusted E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority, and Trust)

Previous updates focused on strong EAT signals, but May’s update re-balanced rankings based on quality instead of optimised EAT sites. It’s wider than just the main EAT targets this time around, reaching much further than just the health and finance sectors.

Therefore, there weren’t any real big winners, rather many smaller winners instead. Previously, smaller websites weren’t anywhere to be found for competitive keywords despite having great content, hence the re-adjustment for more diversity among websites of all sizes.

Although not technically a ranking factor, you can optimise for EAT by producing well researched, original content which is highly relevant to the keyword you’re targeting for each page.

Winners and losers

According to the SEO software company Moz, those who saw an increase (winners) and decrease (losers) in the rank of their website had the following qualities:

Winners

Losers

Did any of those not make sense? Let me explain:

Strong, quality link profile (winners): Reach out to websites in your industry who link to your competitors and offer better content than they did, or something new. There will be a series of videos on this in the step-by-step videos.

Smaller websites with quality content (winners): Those websites that already created great content were initially, largely left out of the main January update. This is why most of them benefitted in May.

Mostly large websites (losers): Same reason as above — large websites had already benefitted too much, so their rankings could have been affected in May to balance out Google’s search results pages.

Category and tag pages (losers): Those pages that don’t cater to ‘searcher intent’ as they have no clear focus, i.e. a publisher’s tag page for top 10 results on North Korea. The searcher is more likely looking for more specific content than a list of pages on the site, so these have lost importance in the update.

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