While we await the total for 2019, it is still clear to see that, when it comes to managing your website, you should not sit idle. Studies have shown that between 70-80% of users research a business online before making a purchase, meaning that being found online is vital for your company. As Google continues to roll out algorithm updates, it’s important to adjust your website as needed in order to boost your search visibility and gain first page rankings.
But with so many changes being made throughout the year, it can be hard to keep up. So, we’ve compiled a list of all algorithmic changes of 2020 so far, including the winners and losers, which we’ll update as time goes on.
January 13th – January 2020 Core Update
The first update of the year was announced by Google on January 13th, rolling out across the world and affecting all languages. Tracking tools showed high volatility for three days, with Google confirming that the update was ‘mostly done’ rolling out on the 16th.
Core updates do not target a particular industry, and anyone can be affected. They are designed to improve how Google’s systems rank content. The search engine giant explains this in more detail on their blog:
“…imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later, in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.
Winners and Losers
Towards the end of 2019, most updates saw YMYL (your money or your life) sites as the most affected. This update was no different, particularly for the health and finance sectors. Very Well Health was one of the top winners, according to multiple sources, as was Yahoo Finance. A few dictionary sites came out triumphant, too. Meanwhile, a further group of healthcare sites fell victim.
Overall, this update has been duped by many as large and fierce, causing great tremors throughout top ten rankings.
January 23rd – Featured Snippet Deduplication
While this wasn’t exactly an algorithm update, the deduplication of featured snippets was still a considerable change that majorly affected websites’ click-through-rates (CTR).
Previously, featured snippets (pictured below) were counted as their own, stand-alone search engine results page (SERP) feature, not an organic search listing. If a site obtained a featured snippet, the same URL would also appear in the listings below as an ordinary listing.
On the 23rd, Google announced that, if a URL is featured in a snippet, it would not appear on the first page of search results. Thus aligning this SERP feature with Google’s claim that a featured snippet is an organic entity, counting as position number one. Before this deduplication, a featured snippet counted as position zero.
Winners and Losers
In this case, there were no obvious winners and losers to be precise, but many sites did report losses of traffic. This deduplication led to many site owners having to decide which they’d rather lose: a first-page ranking, or a featured snippet. Moz tried conducting a CTR study to see which loss would have a bigger impact, but unfortunately, it is impossible to decipher if clicks to a URL were from the featured snippet or the organic listing.
Overall, this major change was met with confusion and outcry and sparked much discussion over the future of featured snippets.
February 9th – Unconfirmed Search Ranking Update
While a core update has been denied by Google, we have decided to include it in this blog as there were significant amounts of chatter and tracker tools were off the charts for five days – longer than the standard algorithm updates.
From the February 9th, discussions of a suspected search update started to arise on Twitter and various web forums. SEO spokesperson Barry Shwartz reported the fluctuations as ‘really big, maybe even massive’ changes that were taking place. Many sites experienced severe traffic drops and spikes.
On the 13th, Google’s Danny Sullivan stated, ‘We do updates all the time’ in response to this speculation. This suggests that algorithmic changes were made during this time, just not on the same scale as a core update.
Winners and Losers
Unfortunately, it’s hard to decipher a clear sector that either benefitted or suffered the most following these changes. The suggested update occurred across the globe, and there were both winners and losers in a range of industries. There was even some speculation that several updates actually took place, as many of the sites that saw drops then experienced traffic increases a few days later. The one thing that was certain following the confusing five days was that some sort of changes were made – it’s just unclear what exactly those changes were.
May 4th – May 2020 Core Update
The second core update of the year began rolling out on May 4th and appeared to have mostly ended by the 7th. Rank Ranger dubbed this update as an ‘absolute monster’ as the effects appear more brutal than those which occurred in January. Furthermore, this update took place amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, which had already significantly affected a wide range of sites and caused a change in search patterns.