After a core update at the start of the year in January, Google has announced the next update to its algorithms early this month, on May 4th. Each update affects Google’s search algorithms and is released with the intention to present information that is relevant and authoritative for any search result.
With COVID-19, many industries have seen a decline because of the nature of their business, while others have seen an increase. This has resulted in a significant shift in the way users search for queries online as well. This is why Google has chosen to rank certain categories higher in its latest update. This will allow relevant content to appear to match searches during these uncertain times.
For example, the search for content related to news, health, and online communities has shot up, while categories like travel, sports, and live events have seen a drop. Google’s latest update accounts for these shifts and the change in algorithms strongly affects Search Engine Results Page (SERP) volatility.
The core update that was announced in January also affected SERP volatility, but May’s core update displays a peak in these rates, which is illustrated in the graph below.
It is important to note that the update also affects thin content, as well as old content which has not been refreshed in a while. Such items will be ranked lower by Google’s algorithm update. But if there has been a change in rankings for the entire industry, there is no guarantee that implementing changes will help increase the position of the content in SERPs. Featured snippets have also been impacted with the update.
Users may recall that in September 2019, Google announced a core update that resulted in a similar outcome which changed rankings completely. A key difference was that YouTube videos began to outrank Wikipedia pages. So this is not the first time something of this sort has happened.
Since the core update reflects the direct impact industries have witnessed throughout these last few months, the same industries have experienced a win or loss with this unprecedented change.
For example, news has become paramount during these times. People across the world are trying to stay informed on COVID-19, as well as the impact it has had on various spheres of our normal lives. Information on health and medical research is also being widely consumed. And with people restricted to their homes, the number of hours online have shot up as well. Users are spending more time on different social media platforms, streaming services, and other categories of entertainment. Thus, these are the industries that have benefited most from the update this month, with news coming out on top.
Other industries have not fared as well. Travel and real estate have seen a dramatic drop, and this is reflected in the results of the update as well. Similarly, live events and entertainment, autos and vehicles, tech, and fitness, among many others, have taken a big hit. Many websites are reporting a significant drop in traffic, which is likely due to the change in the SERP algorithm.
Because marketing during COVID-19 is already in a state of flux, it is important to stay up to date with these changes and implement corrections accordingly. This can make keeping up with competitive SERPs easier. However, it might make more sense to wait until the market picks up for industries currently experiencing a decline in demand and engagement.