On May 4th, 2020, Google announced a core algorithm update that would affect sites across all different industries. Google’s last core update rolled out in January 2020 and had the greatest impact on sites that impact a user’s quality of life (known as “Your Money, Your Life” or YMYL). Examples of industries impacted by the last algorithm included financial services, legal advice, breaking news and health. So what does this new update (dubbed by some as the "Pandemic Update") mean for your site? The May 2020 update will impact the SEO strategy for many sites, especially those who haven’t demonstrated credibility, a strong content strategy and a valuable linking strategy.
1. Google E-A-T Update
E.A.T. (expertise, authority, and trust) is the main factor affected by this core update. Unlike past updates, specific E.A.T. components help some websites more than others. For instance, those who have demonstrated "expertise" or credibility within their website, have greatly benefited from this change. While those who focus more on "authority" (how a website ranks externally), appear to have decreased in importance. There also seems to have been changes in how "trustworthiness" is measured by Google. To best ensure your webpage is recognized as “trustworthy”, add author descriptions on your blog posts and ensure all backlinks are from respectful sources.
It's important to understand that even if you have made all the necessary changes to meet the expectations of E.A.T., you may still receive an initial adverse effect on your rankings and visibility across Google SERPs from the update. Typically, it won’t be until the next Google core update that you will see ranking improvements.
2. Linking Strategy
Links are also being measured differently from the May 2020 core algorithm update. In the past, Google has claimed that core updates are usually not about link quality. With this particular update, they’re not deemed “essential” for rankings. However, if you do not produce high-quality links, you can see a decrease in your rankings. For instance, affiliate sites appear to have been hit hard with the May 2020 Core Update. This could be because they often lack a high-quality link profile, which can make their brand appear weak to Google. Therefore, we recommend including strong links through your site’s content.
Although formulating a link strategy may not be enough to boost your rankings, it also can’t hurt them. To stay on the safe side, it's always good to ensure all links are reliable and make sense for your page’s content. If Google's algorithms see enough unnatural links pointing to a website, they may choose to put less trust in your overall link profile.
3. High-Quality Content
With Google's newly tweaked algorithm, there has been a change in how the "quality" of the page’s content is measured. Content quality is one of the leading factors brought by May’s update to affect rankings. Explore areas where it’s clear rankings have fallen and improved:
Where rankings fell: Pages that are unclear or do not match a user’s search intent will be penalized by this update. According to a post by Searchmetrics, those who combine every thought onto one page as well as provide a variety of mixed topics will not rank highly. That is because Google’s algorithm is focused on pages with a clear focus that matches the intent of their user’s search, so doing this would send unclear signals to the algorithm.
Where ranking improved: On the other hand, content that matches user intent from a search query has seen significant benefits from this update. This is especially true within product pages, as they are supposed to be focused more on quality over quantity and are a direct correlation to essential questions being searched. For instance, a page about auto loan rates in Boise should deliver the end result to the user and search engines in a clear format: a list of current auto loan rates in Boise Idaho. Beating around the bush or not providing information that best matches the user’s intent will prevent that page from appearing high on SERPs for related inquiries.
If you're looking to produce high-quality website content, all pages must meet these same expectations. It's not as simple as deciding that your new pages will be of the utmost quality from here on out. Instead, you should go back to past published pages and blogs and optimize them against these guidelines. This doesn't mean that you need to completely re-do all old webpages. However, you can optimize them by adding new research/findings and deleting any now irrelevant information. This ensures everything attached to your brand is of the utmost value to users.
4. Google BERT
Overall, May’s update has brought to light Google's focus on understanding what the searcher is trying to find, while providing websites that can answer their questions. At the end of 2019, Google announced that they would be relying more on Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) to surface the most helpful information, no matter how the query is spelled, or the combination of words that were entered.
Google mainly looks for whether the keyword you are searching for actually exists on the page. If the keywords are located in the headings or body of the text, then it’s more likely to be considered relevant from BERT. Overall, BERT’s goal is to better understand user search queries, and match them to the highest quality content it can find that provides a direct solution to what searched are looking for.
Start Catering to May’s Google Update
So far in 2020, we have already seen many trends for how website pages will be ranked. Now with this most recent Google update, you can better understand what you can do to improve your organic search traffic from the four main areas affected. On top of these changes, we recommend having regular SEO maintenance done to your site, to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Make sure to thoroughly read through Google's guidelines to understand all the impact these updates can have on your site and feel free to contact the SEO experts at ZAG Interactive with any questions.