Google’s Danny Sullivan has confirmed that a core algorithm update is rolling out today – May 4, 2020.
The update will officially be known as the “May 2020 Core Update.”
Google has been one step ahead of the SEO community when it comes to naming these updates, as the company now defaults to a generic Month/Year naming pattern.
Otherwise, I would wager we’d all be tempted to refer to this as the “May the Fourth” update – or something to that effect.
Update 3:52 p.m.: The May 2020 Core Update is now rolling out.
Second Core Update in 2020
This is Google’s second confirmed update of 2020 so far, with the first one launching back in January.
Feels like a lifetime ago considering how the world has changed between then and now.
With that said, this effectively answers any questions about whether Google will pause core updates amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The answer is: no.
Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and throughout this post I will explain why.
The Purpose of Core Updates
Broad core updates are designed to produce widely noticeable effects across search results in all countries in all languages.
Sites will inevitably notice drops or gains in search rankings when a core update rolls out.
Changes in search rankings are generally a reflection of content relevancy.
Meaning if content has gained relevancy since the last update it will be moved higher up in rankings. The opposite is also true.
Then there’s newly published content that didn’t exist at the time of the last update. That all has to be reassessed against previously existing content.
To put it simply, rankings can move around quite a bit.
With this being the first update since the pandemic, the May 2020 Core Update has the potential to be especially volatile.
First Core Update Since COVID-19
The last core update was launched in the second week of January 2020.
At the time, coronavirus and COVID-19 were hardly on anyone’s radar. Now that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The world quickly changed when coronavirus was declared a pandemic, which came with significant shifts in users’ search behavior.
Earlier today Google said there has never been so many searches for a single topic as there have been for COVID-19.
COVID-19 has changed what people need from Google’s search results.
Whether it’s seeking information about the virus itself, or places offering remote services, or where to buy much needed products online.
There are many things gaining relevancy that weren’t as relevant to searchers before.
Conversely, categories that were once highly relevant aren’t being searched for as much.
For example – searches related to travel, tourism, live entertainment, and in-person events are all down. Just to name a few.
With the May 2020 Core Update, Google is faced with the unique challenge of catching up with how the world is searching.
Over time, we will see if people are finding it easier to access the information they need through Google Search.
Boon to SEO Job Market?
If the May 2020 Core Update ends up being as potent as it has the potential to be, it could be a good thing for SEOs.
It’s no secret that, amid the economic downturn, companies are laying off staff and clients are pausing services.
Services provided by SEOs are especially valuable any time an algorithm update occurs.
The more volatile the update, the more valuable those services become.
That means SEOs may soon find themselves in a position where there’s a significant rise in demand for their work.
Will be interesting to see how many companies suddenly have room in their budget for SEO when the May 2020 Core Update fully rolls out.
May 2020 Core Update: What to Do
Google’s guidance regarding this update remains exactly the same as all core updates in the past.
Historically, Google has always said there’s nothing to “fix” if rankings drop after a core update.
Rather, site owners are routinely advised to make their content the best it can be.
I interpret that as meaning: strive to make each piece of content the most holistic resource on the web for a user’s specific query.
There are many other interpretations of Google’s advice on how to deal with the impact of a core update.