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A Human Perspective on Google's May 2020 Core Update

On Monday, May 4, 2020 Google announced its second algorithm update of the year. Outside of their daily tweaks to the system to try and improve Organic search results, Google releases these ‘core updates’ a few times annually. 

The last core update Google released came in January 2020 – a time that may seem distant to many with the world looking very different than it does today.

Considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on Organic traffic in the last few months—whether positively or negatively depending on your industry—a new core update to Google’s algorithm in this time of uncertainty may either help or hinder your business’s website performance.

A Global Rollout of the Algorithm Update

While some of Google’s core updates come in phases, such as the BERT update of October 2019 which first launched in US English then globally across 70 languages in December of the same year, the May 2020 Core Update rolled out globally at once.

This widespread update reflects the global impact the virus has had in the last few months politically, economically, and socially.

What is Google Saying About the Core Update?

As usual, not much. Outside of directing users to general information about their core updates, Google has been quiet about how exactly this algorithm change will impact Organic rankings.

Good Content Is Key—But What Does That Mean Exactly?

‘Content marketing’ has been the buzzword of the last few years. Digital marketers love touting content as king, and Google is on board with that focus as they claim:

We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.” 

And it’s true. Good content is undeniable in its appeal to users, and Google is all about getting the right content in front of the right audience when they are looking for it. That being said, the advice to focus on creating the best content can be frustrating and vague.

Does that mean looking at the data to determine which content on your site users are interacting with the most?

Or does it mean making sure your content is tailored to meet recent search trends, such as answering voice searches or questions?

Content is for the Reader, Not the Reward

Maybe in this time of volatility and uncertainty in, not only the economic market but, also individuals’ lives, being empathetic and understanding in how you craft your content and speak to the reader is paramount.

As we see traditional marketing quickly shift towards messaging around the stay at home orders and focus on emphasizing philanthropy and solidarity, perhaps Google is aligning their algorithm with this ethos: 

To accommodate users seeking support and comfort amidst trying times.

These are all speculations as the core update came out so recently, though over the coming weeks and months it will be interesting to see the impact this update has and how SEOs adapt to these changes.

Early Findings & Effects

It seems that early reports are showing a big impact on local business searches and health-related sites. This makes sense as small and local businesses are shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic and more people are also seeking medical advice or information online.

The Human First Approach to SEO

As people across the globe are staying at home to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus, the sphere of influence in their daily lives shrinks. Chance encounters, trips to the store, in-person interactions; the things we may have taken for granted before are declining. The impact of local businesses is being felt more than ever, whether they thrive as more people support them or are hurt by forced closures.

All of this reminds us that first and foremost that we are human. As often seen after a major event, there is a coming together of people from all walks of life to get through this. People are turning to each other and, as always, online for help.

It’s easy at times to forget when focused on data and algorithms, that there are people behind the pixels. As marketers, we must constantly remember that we aren’t just driving sessions and clicks, our jobs are to help a real human being find the answers they are searching for.

Profitability is still important for the success of any business and marketing department, but the why has certainly changed in a few short months. Keeping the lights on to keep as many people employed as possible is the goal for many industries across the globe. Therefore, the strategy much change, and the focus must be on how marketers can better serve their audience in these times with the right content and information to guide in making more profitable decisions.

What Do You Do Now?

You may be asking yourself how this Google algorithm update affects your business. Maybe you haven’t seen any major impacts on your website rankings yet. If so, great! Remember to keep an eye out for any potential fluctuations over the coming weeks. 

Nevertheless, the residual effects of Google’s algorithm updates ripple out over time, and it’s important to stay updated on how that is changing consumer behavior in the SERPs. 

If good content is critical right now (and in the foreseeable future, if we are being honest), consider these questions when crafting the best content for the current climate:

  • What do people need to hear right now? Not just during COVID-19, but whatever the world may look like at any given moment—remember to write for the reader.
  • In this piece of content, am I putting the user first? How is the information benefiting the reader?
  • What kind of content do people need or want right now? Are you reaching the user with the medium they prefer and require to stay engaged?

Unfortunately, there’s no right answer when it comes to unpacking the Google algorithm updates because the impact is ever-changing. But what we can take away, especially in a time such as this, is that businesses should continue to put consumers first.

Creating content and crafting a digital experience that serves your core audience will position you as a partner, not just a supplier of information. And that will have a far-reaching impact on your business, no matter the current state of the world or what Google’s next algorithm might bring.

Is your SEO strategy prepared for this recent Google update? Business Online’s SEO experts are ready to take a peek under the hood and give you the right recommendations to better serve your audience.

Contact us today to set up a free SEO consultation! 


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