29 Dec / 2020 1,123 views

Google’s December 2020 Core Update – What to Expect | A Must-Read for SEO

Google’s December 2020 Core Update – What to Expect | A Must-Read for SEO

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After the core update in May 2020, Google has rolled out yet another core algorithm update in December this year. Google announced its release back on December 3, 2020 and it’s fully rolled out now. Like any other core update, this is a global or broad core update and not specific to any language, region or category of websites. It’s time to know all about the core update and how it will impact.

Before getting started with the specific update, let’s quickly analyse what a core update is.

Google Core Update – An Overview

Google makes various changes to the search algorithm all the time. Not all of these are extremely significant. But, several times a year, Google releases impactful changes to the core search algorithms.

Let’s hear it from Google:

Core updates are “designed to ensure that overall (Google is) delivering on (its) mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers”.

The web crawlers judge the value of a website on the basis of these parameters. If a website’s traffic rate suddenly decreases following a core update, we may decipher that other sites are offering more relevant and helpful information to the traffic.

In case you are curious, here’s how Google crawlers work to offer relevant results to the searchers:

When the searchers insert a query, Google analyses its meaning. It looks through the words in the query to determine the right sort of content to offer. For instance, if you search for a celebrity’s birthday, Google will offer you a single and distinct answer. On the other hand, if you look for a political persona’s contribution to politics in PDF, Google may offer the research papers published on the same.

Once Google understands the searchers’ intent, it returns the web pages most helpful to answer the question. For instance, any eCommerce website has different product pages. But when one looks for blue sports shoes, Google presents only the sites and pages that offer sports shoes in blue colour.

While crawling the web, Google organizes various pages in an index. The crawlers take account of various aspects of each page including the keywords used, the freshness of the page, and so on. This allows Google to offer the most relevant result to the searchers.

Why did we elaborate so much about the work process of Google? It is relevant for the following discussion. Below, we will outline how a core update can cause a traffic drop and how to stay relevant.

Google Core Update December, 2020

According to the SEO community around the world, this update is considerably a greatly impactful one. Many sites witnessed gains or losses of 10 to 100% of their earlier levels of organic search traffic.

Now, that’s the thing with a core update. Earlier, websites affected by Google’s Panda algorithm had thin and irrelevant content. Google’s Penguin algorithm impacted the sites with low quality and spammy links.

In order to get an idea about the improvements desired by Google, we need to study the changes made to the QRG – Quality Raters’ Guidelines by Google. Here’s why Quality Raters are important. When the Google engineers write codes to upgrade the algorithm, they present two sets of search results to the Quality Raters to review. One of these is the already existing result. Another is what the result may look like when the proposed changes are implemented to the algorithm. The raters evaluate both the search results and offer feedback.

Before rolling out the upgrades, Google modifies the QRG and includes several crucial aspects. These give us a hint about how to prep up for the core updates.

A few examples will come in handy here. For instance, Google added the phrase “safety of users” while describing YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) Pages before rolling out the core update on August 1, 2018. It also added the info that the quality raters will consider a page as “low” in case there’s a proof of mixed or mildly negative reputation.

Again, the June 3, 2019 core update had an objection against the medical sites that contradicted any scientific consensus. The QRG reads:

“High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics should be produced by people or organizations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.”

Quite naturally, the QRG is updated in October 2020 and features some essential modifications reflected in the latest core update. Google added several examples in order to explain how raters will determine the quality and relevance of a page. We will discuss these below.

  • In the QRG, a Wikipedia post on ATM machines has high E-A-T but it doesn’t meet the intent of a searcher who is looking for ATM. The searcher is more likely to look for the closest ATM as opposed to the concept of an ATM machine elaborated in Wikipedia.
  • Again a high-quality content with a medium to high E-A-T can be returned for the query “how many octaves are on a guitar”. However, the page is about the octaves on a piano and not on a guitar. Therefore, the raters will assume that the page “fails to meet” the searchers’ query.

This underlines Google’s attempt to refine search results. It will inspect the relevance of each piece of content as per the users’ query, no matter how high the E-A-T of the page is. And when it comes to “needs met”, Google is relying heavily on Natural Language Processing (NLP).

How the Algorithm has Affected Ranking – A Study

The Search Engine Result Page (SERP) has been quite volatile following the latest broad algorithm update. Here’s a study executed by SEMrush. Domains like Business & industrial, shopping, jobs, fitness, etc. witnessed a spike in position. The pandemic indeed had a major influence on that.

#Investigating the Patterns Brought Forth by the Update

As we are quite some time into the new update, it’s time to analyze the changes brought forth by Google.

#Content Structure

All the pages that are improved in ranking after the update curiously have one thing in common – neatly organized content. All of them divide the content into multiple headings and subheadings. The page title provides a relevant and descriptive summary of the entire content. This helps the search bots to skim headings and determine whether the content is relevant to the searchers’ query.

#Trustworthy content

Several pages with alternative medical content have earned a high rank as Google now considers them to be trustworthy. Earlier, several such pieces of content didn’t rank well even though they catered to the users’ query.

#Unparallel user experience

This is a factor common to every core update and this one is no exception. If a website is flooded with a number of ads, especially the ones that affect the users’ readability, rest assured that its rank is going to drop anytime soon!

#User-generated content

User-generated content may get more value and obtain a high rank, thanks to the update.

How to Keep Up with the Core Update and Earn a High Rank on the SERP

After any core update, the SEO experts recommend to adopt a holistic approach instead of picking one specific matter. Here are a few measures advised by the professionals at a top SEO agency India. Care to follow the instructions? Keep reading:

  • Minutely study the Quality Raters’ Guidelines and pay attention to the examples. Even if you don’t belong to the same vertical as mentioned in the guideline, apply the logic in your content and improve it accordingly.
  • Make sure that your arguments are supported by trustworthy and authoritative sources. This applies more to scientific, medical or academic content.
  • Clearly identify your brand and claims. Also, outline your monetization methods and refund policies. You should also be upfront about who is responsible for the content on your website.
  • Use descriptive headings and subheadings. Use a reader-friendly content structure.
  • Check which of your keywords declined in rankings. Now inspect the same in your competitors’ pages that improved. That way, you will be able to set up a strategy and make necessary changes.
  • Don’t feature too many ads and affect readability. If you find some ads to be intrusive, make sure to remove those.
  • Use structured data to help the search engine bots understand the intent of the site content.
  • Also, perform a technical audit of your site to make sure everything is at its place.

Hope you have found the article useful. Implement these strategies and stay in the “good books” of Google.

Priyanka Agarwal

Priyanka Agarwal

Priyanka Agarwal is an experienced digital marketer with vast knowledge in SEO, SMO, etc. She pens articles elucidating the latest trends in digital marketing.

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