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May 2020 Core Update: The Winners, The Losers, and What You Can Do Now

As if the world needed more change at the moment, Google announced a new core algorithm update on May 4th and began rolling it out last week — completely disrupting many SERPs and websites in the process.

SEOs can expect 2-4 core updates like this one each year, but this update reaches wider and cuts more severely than most. Core Google algorithm updates can take as long as two weeks to roll out completely, but so far we’ve seen this wave begin in earnest on May 4th and hit hard again on May 8th.

Here’s what we know so far

The effects of this update have been fierce, with some SEOs around the web reporting that it feels more like a penalty than an algorithm update. For some, the negative effects have felt even more insulting given the timing, but of course, where there are losers, there are also a few winners.

The impact seems generally industry agnostic, with all industries seeing fairly similar volatility rates (for better or for worse). However, while SEOs around the globe are reporting fluctuations across virtually all industries, there seems to be a concentration in the chatter around real estate, health, and travel.


Notable sites with positive outcomes

  • amazon.ca
  • beachbodyondemand.com
  • businesswire.com
  • encyclopedia.com
  • homedepot.com
  • lexico.com
  • medicalxpress.com
  • news-medical.net
  • oxforddictionaries.com
  • people.com
  • pinterest.com
  • yogainternational.com

There’s no shortage of findings here, but one example worth discussing is news-medical.net (and other health/medical sites), who are seeing a dramatic return to a higher status. News-medical.net is one of many sites who was hit with harsh ranking and traffic drops after Google’s Medic Update in August of 2018.



It’s also fascinating to see lexico.com, oxforddictionary.com, and encyclopedia.com as winners in this turnout given their potential for exposure based on the sheer volume of these sites. In theory all three of these sites are meeting very similar needs in SERPs, yet all three has seen drastic increases. 

Perhaps not quite as surprising is seeing sites like beachbodyondemand.com and yogainternational.com leading the pack given that they have risen in popularity organically during these times of isolation.


Notable sites with negative outcomes

  • allmusic.com
  • dailyburn.com
  • eventbrite.com
  • foxbusiness.com
  • huffpost.com
  • iheart.com
  • investopedia.com
  • nypost.com
  • spotify.com
  • twitch.tv 
  • wordpress.org 

As for the traffic losers, the theme is more obvious. Streaming, be it video (twitch.tv) or music (allmusic.com, iheart.com, and spotify.com), are all taking notable hits. This is especially strange because one can assume that (like the fitness websites above) these sites should be receiving more visits than ever during times of isolation.

While this list is far from comprehensive, it does shed light on the notable sites who have seen the largest decreases in organic reach with Google. Websites seeing negative outcomes from this update should identify competitor sites or related industry sites who have fared better, and work to determine the difference between their site’s keywords, structure, backlink profile, content quality, and overall EAT (expertise, authority, and trust) and those of the competition. This should lead to a number of actionable SEO recommendations.


SEOs have work to do

SEOs familiar with Google updates know that not much official advice comes from Google when a core algorithm update rolls out.

We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.

Google adds, “There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update.”

With vague (and some could say, disheartening) advice like this, it’s natural to want to throw in the towel after devastating losses. But it’s important to remember that these core updates happen multiple times a year, giving SEOs plenty of opportunity to reevaluate their site’s structure, keyword targeting, backlink profile, and quality of content in preparation for the next update.

Smart SEOs are taking this time to reevaluate the on- and off-page metrics and models of their competitors who have won out their SERPs so that they can get a fresh view on what options might be most effective in regaining lost ground. As Google’s core algorithm updates mature, the fixes and actions for SEOs will become more nuanced and specific to the site and SERP, and simple advice like clean up your backlink profile, or have better EAT won’t produce the same value it did in the past.


Top floor insights

97th Floor is searching through our client’s analytics and rankings to identify any sites that have seen a negative impact in order to uncover a discernible reasoning behind those whose rankings sunk versus those who were lifted higher. However, we haven’t found any websites with starkly negative results. In fact, most have increased during this shakeup.

This could be indicative of our holistic approach to SEO strategies over a one size fits all tactic. In addition to the above recommendations from the industry, we add that a holistic SEO strategy will beat out a fad fix in the long run every time.

A holistic SEO strategy focuses on the core disciplines of SEO:

  • Indexability: Google’s ability to crawl and index a site
  • Readability: Google’s ability to read and understand a site
  • Linkability: Optimizing a website’s backlink profile
  • Trackability: Ensuring a website’s SEO performance is being tracked and measured with data
  • Findability: Improving a website’s compliance with Google’s search guidelines
  • Usability: Improving the site’s user experience

Because our clients have fared comparatively well over this set of core updates, we believe that SEOs should be focusing on a comprehensive strategy in addition to fixing the obvious errors on their sites. This is the SEO strategy that will allow sites to weather any algorithm storm and come out strong on the other side.

If you have any questions about this update or want to chat about what we can do to help you be better prepared for the next core update, we’re here for you.


Comments or questions? Hit me up on Twitter.

Joe Robledo

Joe is the VP of SEO at 97th Floor. He loves digging into the weeds of all realms of SEO. He has a strong passion for continual-improvement and efficiency in SEO and all other aspects of life. He loves being with his family and adventuring outdoors.

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