Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Google Core Update May 2020 - Some observations

By Adrián Coutin

Google Core Update, simultaneously deployed in all language versions of Google, landed on Google's search results, SERPs, on May 6.

We all know the disruptions introduced by updates of the type "core", because they often introduce improvements in algorithms that cause severe adjustments in the first rankings of positions in all Google indexes, and in all versions of the language.

This post tries to specify some changes that may have affected the websites hit by this update and is divided into the following parts:


The update was announced via Twitter, referring to the dedicated post, in general, an explanation of what these types of updates consist of. What webmasters should know about the main Google updates published in August 2019.

In the following graph taking from the Semrush Sensor you can see the high volatility of the SERP on May 6.

Graph No. 1 Volatility SERP Google.es source: SEMrush Sensor

The day after the update, various experienced specialists and analysts starting to investigate how deep has been this update and how many websites have been hitted.

On May 8, Johannes Beus from Sistrix published the post Google Core Update May 2020 - revolution in SERPs despite COVID-19 commenting on the main winners and losers websites of this update.

On May 20 Roger Montti publishes, using the same tool, his first impressions on this update Google May 2020 Update: What we learned  and where the main affected categories are:

  • Nutrition and recipes
  • Fitness, News
  • Drugs alcohol and rehabilitation
  • Science and Health News
  • Banks and finances
  • Music and entertainment, natural medicine
  • History

María J Cachón, Director of Opertions Sistrix Spain, publised useful information about the winning and losing Web sites on Google.es on Linkedin see (in spanish) Visibility changes by sector according to the Sistrix visibility index 

Analyzing Google Core Upate 2020

In this analysis, I will try to identify those elements that have caused the fall in positions of the websites detected by this Core Update according to the SEMrush Sensor.

In this part I'm going to analyze this update throught selecting a specific websites category, Health,  and

To facilitate the analysis from the use of segmentation by categories, in this case Health, as well as the variations reported by this tool in Google's SERP functionalities,

What are SERP features?

Let's see the SEMrush's definition of SERP features:

"A SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is generated by Google as a response to a query. SERP Features are special results on SERPs that are intended to offer users helpful information with the minimum necessary to click on the result." What are SERP features?

In the next graph we will be able to observe the functionalities that SEMrush tracks.

Graph No. 2 Report of SERP Functionalities - SEMrush

According to SERP features occurrence report, the greatest variations in the Health category are reported in the featured snippets, local pack (local results on the map) and top stories.

Let's see in detail how SERP volatility will behave in the Health category.

Featured Snippet

Graph No. 3 SERP volatility and features snippets desktop, left side, mobile, right sider

Graph No. 3 SERP volatility and highlighted fragment on SERP desktop, left side, mobile, right side

Both, desktop and mobile devices, are affected same day of Google update deploy, 6th may, but when we analyzed features snippets for  both kind of devices its shows important changes in this functionality in SERP since the last April 29.

On desktop device on April 29, the 15,5% o SERP included features snippets and, the next day, had fallen to 13.6% in Google SERP. In May 4th featured snippets reached 12,7%, the lowest percentage reported in this period of time. After that we can see a "dance" of ups and downs without recovering the previous levels.

The featured snippets on mobiles have a lower percentage representation in the Google SERP due to the limited space on this type of device. According to this report the maximum representation of this features in this period of time was 14%.

However, we also found a drop in the percentages of this functionality, going from 12.5% ​​on April 29 to 10.7% on April 30, with an almost constant downward trend until May 14 where reached 10.3%

Local Pack

Now we are going to analyze local pack, changes detected in pack local in the same category, Health.

Graphic No. 4 SERP volatility and local pack on SERP desktop, left side, mobile, right side

Although no significant changes in this functionality are detected in the desktop version, a substantial change has been detected in the mobile version since April 15.

According to Graph No. 4, the functionality associated with local pack or local businesses goes from 18.7%, on April 14, to 23.5% on April 15, maintaining. as of that day, a high percentage in the SERP.

Top Stories

Top stories are an unstable functionality since it depends on the volume of news related to the search subjects, among other factors,  for that Google algorithm decide to activate it.

Graph No. 5 SERP volatility and top stories SERP desktop, left side, mobile, right side

As you can see the  percentage of this funcionality in both devices  are increased, however I cannot confirm that we are seen an algortihm adjustment that is benefiting or harming top stories funcionability.

Web Site hitted - Observations

I will take one of the website with greatest drop in Sistrix visibility, sectoe comesic surgery, clinicasplanas.com, - 18, 46% according to the research made for María J Cachón, Visibility changes by sector according to the Sistrix visibility index 

I'm going to analyze  the falls in  SERPs positions of clinicaplanas.com with SEMRush tools during a month, 15 april - 15 may. It is important to mention that we have a limitation which is connected to the frecuency in which SEMrush crawls in Google SERP keywords where this website are optimized.

However, there are keywords examples by this website ranked pretty well and, after the Google update, lost these positions.

Image No. 1 shows keyword position, "poros abiertos tratamiento dermatologico",  in SERP Google, featured snippets,  May 4, according to SEMrush. Page: https://www.clinicaplanas.com/video/como-combatir-los-poros-abiertos

Image No. 1 Google.es SERP - featured snippet for keywords "poros abiertos tratamiento dermatologico" clinicaplanas.com 4th May

Nevertheless at 15th May searching Google via anonymous navigation and the isearchfrom.com tool, we observe that the page loses position detected 4th May, featured snippet, and becoming  positioned in other SERP functinality, video carousel, quite far from a first place result.

Image No. 2 Google.es SERP - search results for the keyword "poros abiertos tratamiento dermatologico" 05/14/2020

Web page details

Let us see how this page has organized some important elements as: content, structured data and internal forwardlinks.

The next image shows us the page we are analyzing.

Image No. 3 Page -> https://www.clinicaplanas.com/video/como-combatir-los-poros-abiertos

The image shows, marked with red box all internal forwardlinks included in the footer, and, in small red box, same footer area, links marked with data structured, LocalBusiness, both related two clinics localted in Madrid and Barcelona, owner of website.

Reviewing the page content, we cannot say that it is scarce, with an explanatory video that, after the update, has been shown on the video carousel in Google SERP. (see image No. 2)

Early  Conclusions

We can arrive, according to data analyze for this paper, to the following early conclusions:

  1. The Google update set up new quality evaluations that limit the presence of SERP featured snippet in health category, and increase it in SERP local pack in mobile divice. 
  2. It is possible to deduce a new authority setting. The algorithm is made more rigorous by offering answers to user-oriented questions on sensitive topics, cosmetic surgery in this case.
  3. Related to the above conclusion, the detection of website networks and the degradation of their authority may be implicit in this algorithm.
  4. Because of the increasing of local pack, mobile devices, presence in SERP is submissive a greater rigor in the use of structured data local business in Google MyBusiness
  5. Google can be improving the content segmentation and its valoration. The page analyzed was excluded of fragment snippets but it was relocated it in the video carousel.
  6. It is possible too that Google Core update has lowered the value of internal forwardlinks placed in footer under certain conditions.

Finally commenting on the cases that I could observe I do not see signs that indicate the Google Core update is focused in Web Performance Optimization (WPO) such as First Contenful Paint (FCP), Time to first byte (TTFB), and First Input Delay

However it is not a definitive conclusion that WPO has not been taken into account in this update. In the next analyzes I will continue adding new observations.


Eng. Miguel Ángel Julvez expert developer in Java / JakartaEE / Liferay without which it would have been impossible to develop this paper.

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