In the midst of the global pandemic Google rolled out one of its largest algorithm updates in a long time. It wasn’t one that flew under the radar – that is for sure. Even during a widespread pandemic SEOs and marketing blogs were reporting huge shifts in the SERPs.

It all started on May 4th and over the weeks that followed it was clear that something was going on. When the dust settled and rankings started to stabilize it was clear that this was a very broad algorithm update.

It didn’t target a specific region or language. It’s what many refer to as a core update – as it can impact a huge percentage of websites found in Google’s search index. And it did – I saw rankings in several niches impacted by this new rollout.

Most of the SERP health indication tools showed movement all over the map. When you look at these tools over a long period of time, say 24 months, you will see that what occurred starting on May 4th really shook things up. It was the most volatile the SERPs have been in a long time.

Was your organic Google traffic impacted by this new update? Do you know what happened to cause this?

Even if you didn’t notice huge dips or fall off, you should dive into your Google Analytics traffic to see the big picture – I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that there were some roller coaster days for a few weeks after this new Google core update rolled out.

Here’s our analysis of the recent Google Update..


Niches Impacted by Google’s May 4th Core Algorithm Update

There really weren’t any niches that escaped this core update – just take a look at the list that Search Engine Land put together. Travel, real estate and health were the most impacted niches, but everything, including sports and news websites saw a hit.

Typically updates will impact newer websites with less authority, and the bigger players will remain unaffected. Well, this wasn’t the case this time. The New York Post, for example, was one of the large media and news outlets that was impacted.

Their Domain Authority is 94 and they are one of the most popular sites in the U.S. In fact, they are constantly in the top 500 in Alexa’s rankings. This is pretty strong proof that simply having “authority” protects your website from core updates.

Now that we know Google’s core updates don’t exclude anyone — or any niches or website authority for that matter — it’s important that you know what you can do to avoid being impacted by this update as it continues to roll out as well as future updates.


Eliminate All SEO Errors and Technical Issues

Things like broken URLs, redirects and errors on your website are little things that can add up to big problems. Then add some duplicate pages to the mix and you can see your rankings plummet.

These have always been things that you should have attempted to prevent or fix, but the recent Google core update seems to really hit websites that have these issues harder now than in the past.

It’s easy to let these issues build up and snowball, especially if they aren’t noticeable. Without specifically looking for these problems you might never know they exist. And if you aren’t proactive they will continue to build up and eventually they could be the demise of your website’s organic visibility.

There is a tool that makes identifying these potential problems very simple, and that is Screaming Frog. Before you say, “Umm, I don’t want to subscribe to another SEO tool,” understand that they offer a free version that is adequate for most users.

The free version allows you to scan your entire website for broken links, redirects, technical errors and duplicate content. You can scan and audit up to 500 pages, and most websites are under this count. If you have more, then you more than likely have a site that is generating income — in that case paying a few dollars for the pro version to ensure your website is free of errors seems like a bargain.

In addition to Screaming Frog you should also monitor Google Search Console. Here you will see any issues that Google finds with your website, from technical problems to mobile usability issues.

If Google suggests you fix or correct something do it. These are suggestions straight from the horse’s mouth.


Post New Content on a Regular Basis

Ever since the whole “content is king” movement started several years ago it’s been a general rule of thumb that publishing on a regular basis was very important. Many businesses followed that suggestion and started to post monthly and even weekly blogs.

The problem is that many didn’t stay consistent over the years. While it was being openly talked about and at the forefront of the SEO industry in terms of relevance, everyone was paying attention and participating.

But, over the years many have stopped entirely and some just started to throw up random posts here and there without a strong content plan. It’s important to understand why this is important. Just publishing blog posts for the sake of doing it will accomplish nothing.

Posting on a regular basis lets Google know that your website is a source of information that is constantly being added to. Generally speaking, this should mean that its “value” is constantly being increased as well.

Throwing up thin content or posts without structure or relevance will actually harm you. You need to stay on topic and hyper niche-focused, while making sure it’s well written and optimized, while also providing value to the reader.

If I can give you two tips that will help you it would be:


  • Use a content scheduling calendar plugin so you can quickly glance at your dashboard and see when you have posts scheduled.


  • Pick a frequency schedule and stick to it. A regular basis might be monthly for some, weekly for others and daily for some. It depends on how much traffic you receive. Whatever frequency best fits your business — stick with it.


Don’t opt for the cheapest writer or content source. Every business needs content, which has spawned a lot of content factories that sell low priced articles. They perform horribly in search because Google uses AI with human-level comprehension and thought-process. They perform horribly in terms of providing value to your visitors and enticing action because they are poorly written.

If you cannot write yourself, hire someone that can – and make sure it’s a writer that understands your niche and has a voice your audience will connect with.



Constantly Update Old Content (Add to and Adjust)

There are plenty of articles on SEO blogs that suggest updating old content, but they really don’t dive into the ‘why’ of its importance. A lot of people read these articles and they simply change the publishing date to make it current and that is all.

Sadly that alone isn’t going to do anything.

Have you ever searched for something timely on Google, like a review or something that will tend to be in list form, only to see that a “2020” list or review is actually five or six years old and the only update has been to the title?

It happens a lot and in order to update your old content in a way that helps your SEO you have to actually update the content — not just the date and the title.

You see, by improving the actual content on the page to correct it (by removing outdated or irrelevant information) and to make it better by expanding to include relevant details, you satisfy the person that lands on your page.

This decreases the likelihood of them bouncing and increases the likelihood of them staying for a while and even clicking over to additional pages on your website. This helps to tell Google that A) the page content is helpful and B) it’s relevant to the search query — and this is the type of data the new core update relies on when returning the search results.


Convert Your Thin Content to Long-Form Content

If you have thin content on your website you need to convert it into long-form content or delete it. Keeping pages and posts that are 350 to 500 words could get your website pushed down in the organic search results thanks to the new core update.

If the page is aged and has strong Page Authority and already receives traffic improving the content is only going to make it better. Deleting it would be a waste and you would be throwing an easy opportunity to create a visitor magnet.

You can maintain the same structure in terms of headings and formatting — just add more context and value to each section. Many people I talk to overthink this too much. You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here — you are just making something better.

A 700 word blog post that is ranking in the SERPs can be made better, creating a 2,000 word resource of information that is going to become stronger in Google’s eyes. You;re going to have to address all older thin content, but I’d suggest starting with the posts that are already ranking and receiving traffic.

You can identify these using Google Analytics as well as Google Search Console. Optimize your best performing thin content first to help minimize and traffic loss in the event you are impacted by the core update.


Delete Low Traffic Pages (AKA Useless Content)

Do you have some pages on your website that don’t receive any traffic? Are they just there because you created them years ago and forgot about them? Or maybe you think deleting old inactive (and unvisited) pages is bad for SEO.

Popular websites should see traffic hit all of their pages. It makes sense.

Having a lot of pages that are inactive can signal to Google that the website really isn’t popular. Ausit all of your pages using Google Analytics and review your data in steps. First, start looking over the past three months. Pages that received little to no traffic should all be further looked at across a 6 month timeframe. If they still have little to no traffic go back a full year.

If a page on your site hasn’t received any organic visitors for a year, clip them. Delete them and once you delete all of your inactive and dead pages resubmit your sitemaps through Search Console.

You want Google to recrawl your entire website after this, only finding pages that have traffic coming to them.



Make Your Content More Helpful & Better Than Your Competition

This final tip and suggestion is something that every single business should be doing, regardless of its impact on SEO and whether or not the new Google core update factors in the “best” piece of content for a particular keyword or search query.

Years ago SEO was all about being in the number one position. It has nothing to do with page content. If someone Googled a term they would click on the first result. Back then the top listing would convert the majority of its traffic.

That is not the case these days. Consumers demand the best information and answers when they perform a search. So does Google’s algorithm and the new core update seems to reward the best “resources” and I have really noticed this in the travel industry.

Before, the mega websites like Trip Advisor would dominate the SERPs, whereas now many smaller blogs are showing up on top, with pages that are in-depth reviews full of media, images, etc.

To me, this is a strong indication that it’s not solely about authority now. If you have a better resource in terms of value relevant to the search you are doing to receive some visibility.

The easiest way to optimize for this is to look at the top pages ranking and simply create pages that offer more value. Is a 3,500 word resource ranking on top? Make it better and expand on it, creating a 6,000 word resource with easy-to-navigate sections, infographics, videos, etc.

You have to be willing to go above and beyond just a “re-write” — you have to take it to the next level.


Final Thoughts

So, what have we learned? Google most definitely released a new core update that started rolling out on May 4th. It impacted almost every niche imaginable and many feel that content quality in terms of readability and value played a role, as did overall technical SEO health.

Are the above tips a fool proof way to avoid drops in rankings? While they appear to help, there isn’t anyone that can tell you with 100% certainty how to avoid a Google penalty. That information isn’t made public.

Tips, suggestions and recommendations are based on research and first-hand information, but in the end it is all purely speculation. That’s not saying you should discredit it. The tips I highlighted above are things we are doing to best combat this core update.

Will we have to adjust down the road? More than likely, yes. That is the point – SEO is always changing. Everything mentioned above creates a better user experience, so SEO aside, it’s a good idea to do those things.

Happy visitors convert much easier into leads and sales.

What do you think of the recent Google core update? Did you have a website that was impacted? If so, what niche and what did you experience? And what are you doing to improve your rankings? Let me know in the comments below.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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