Since there is a prevalence of a huge amount of information on the internet, it would be unthinkable to find the exact page you require without the assistance of search engines such as Google. Google has a ranking system that is determined by a series of patented algorithms. This system sorts through millions of webpages and ranks them by their relevance in accordance with the keywords provided by the user.
In order to do this, Google algorithms look at the relevance of the websites, including the presence of the keywords, the frequency of activity, and the location of the page amongst other things. Taking these factors into consideration, Google ranks the websites in its Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The higher the rank of the page, the more relevant it is to the user’s query and the more visitors and traffic it receives. The ranks are determined by Google’s patented Page Rank system.
In order to obtain a higher Page Rank score and appear as the top result for a particular keyword, it is essential to optimize your webpage by using Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO enables your page to appear higher in the rankings of the SERP by strengthening its Page Rank score. Better rankings will lead to increased quality and quantity of traffic on your website, making it more reliable as well.
But throughout the year, Google keeps on updating its algorithms, which directly impacts the rankings in the search results. So one has to keep up with these changes as and when they come to retain the best results.
Google algorithms are updated approximately 500 to 600 times a year. Most of them are minuscule changes, but Google announces major updates a few times a year. These updates cause fluctuations in the ranks of the webpages in Google’s SERP, which is why it is important to keep an eye on any major core updates.
In 2020, there have been both confirmed and unconfirmed major updates. Here’s a summary of everything you need to know about these updates:
January 2020 Core Update
The first major confirmed update of 2020 came out on 14th January after an advanced notice from Google. This was a core update and was supposed to take two weeks to roll out completely. Core updates are the updates because of which many sites are impacted since they occur on a larger scale. At first, there were extreme fluctuations in the rankings of websites on both, desktops and mobiles, but then it started to settle down in the next few days and returned to normal by 19th January.
The January 2020 Core Update gave a higher preference to the content that is specifically tailored to match the intent of the query. It influenced categories like health and wellness, drugs and rehab, financial topics, news and politics, and more. Natural medicine doctors, who had their rankings decreased because of prior updates, saw improvement with the January Core Update. Even though the organic traffic performance was not close compared to pre-2019 traffic levels, the update seemed promising enough.
January Featured Snippets Update
Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liaison, announced a change in Google’s Featured Snippets practices as a confirmed update on 22nd January. Before that, the URL in a Featured Snippet used to appear at both places: at the top of the organic results page and as a part of the Featured Snippet as well. This duplication of the URL of the Featured Snippet on the first page of SERP was stopped, thus appearing only once in the Featured Snippet box. However, such URLs can appear from the second page of the SERP.
The SEO industry was affected negatively by this update, as there was a huge decline in the Click Through Rates through the links of their webpages on SERPs. This was because the Featured Snippets do not appear in the main organic results column in the SERP, but rather appeared in the right sidebar. Because of this, the regular organic link of these websites, which ranked as number one earlier in the SERP, was removed from the first page itself.
Because of the disapproval of the SEO community, Google also announced the appearance of Explore Panel within the SERP’s main column from its previous placement on the right. This was to prevent the reduction in the Click Through Rates of the links placed in the Explore Panel after the removal of the links from the organic results page as highlighted by the SEO community.
February Reversal Pattern Update
There was a series of rank fluctuations that occurred for six days between 8th February to 14th February. Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reported an unconfirmed update that showed many reversal patterns, affecting sites that were impacted by the January 2020 Core Update while others returned to normal soon after the new update.
March COVID-19 Update
Another series of rank fluctuation were recorded lasting about 12 days from 17th March to early April. This was the longest recorded period of fluctuation apart from the core updates in two years. Research by various experts showcased that this unconfirmed update came close to the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11th March. Around that time, there was a noticeable amount of ranking changes made to COVID-19 related keywords.
May 2020 Core Update
The second confirmed major update of the year was announced on 4th May. The update took two days and more fluctuations were noticed on the second day of the update than the first. This update caused rank fluctuations across all the categories and had an enormous scope, with peak volatility from 9 to 9.4 points. It seemed to affect more sites and their rankings in SERPs.
Some categories that were affected highly in terms of their rankings were travel, real estate, health, pets and animals, and people and society; since the queries related to these topics went down because of the pandemic. Other categories that suffered were Arts and Entertainment, and Online Communities. Many bigger domains like Spotify.com, Nypost.com, Creditkarma.com, Legoland.com, Ny.gov, and Burlington.com among others, with monthly traffic of more than one million, were also hit.
One of the least affected categories in the May update was news, considering that media outlets played an essential part in spreading information and were highly sought after for the past few months.
June Unconfirmed Update
There was a series of rank fluctuations from 9th June, peaking on 10th June reaching a risk level of 83 and returning to normal on 13th June. But increased levels of fluctuations were seen again on 16th June, spiking on 20th and 23rd June.
These are the overall updates of this year so far. Google algorithm updates are uncertain, and there’s nothing you can do about major updates. Even big websites are affected and see a dip in their rankings. Google has always maintained that all its algorithm updates are done in a way to ensure the most relevant, quality content for its users. All you have to do is to wait and see how the updates pan out and check the traffic on your website. Verify whether your content is free of any factual errors, spelling mistakes, and is of genuine interest to your audience. If you focus on improving your SEO strategies, updating your content, and building your backlinks, you don’t need to fear major changes by any update.
However, even if you do everything, there’s no guarantee about the results that change with every new update-how they will roll out, whether they will impact negatively or positively. Every update is different and is introduced with an aim to create the best user experience. So always watch out for the amendments that you can make with each update.
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