Google’s May 2022 Core Update Underway: What We Know So Far

Every now and again Google makes an announcement that sends shivers down the collective spines of SEOs worldwide. Anytime the phrase ‘core update’ is mentioned even in a whisper, it’s enough to rock the entire online business community to its core.

One such announcement came on May 25, when Google officially announced it had begun rolling out its May 2022 Core Update. Google’s own Danny Sullivan – now on vacation and keeping quiet about the who thing – penned the following statement to announce the next big shakeup:

“Several times per year, we make substantial improvements to our overall ranking processes, which we refer to as core updates. Core updates are designed to increase the overall relevancy of our search results and make them more helpful and useful for everyone. Today, we’re releasing our May 2022 core update. It will take about 1-2 weeks to fully roll out.”

“Core updates are changes we make to improve Search overall and keep pace with the changing nature of the web. While nothing in a core update is specific to any particular site, these updates may produce some noticeable changes to how sites perform.”

Just for the record, the last major core update came in November last year, but there have been dozens of minor updates rolled out in the meantime. 

The Usual Ambiguous Information?

On one hand, it’s nice of Google to at least keep us all in the loop, in terms of the basic announcement itself.  At the same time, little to no information was (as usual) provided with regard to the specifics of the update. 

Nor did Google give any indication as to who could expect to be affected most significantly by the May 2022 Core Update. 

Instead, Mr Sullivan simply concluded his announcement as follows:

“We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.”

“There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those guidelines. In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”

No further updates in the interim, but the web’s most prominent tracking tools have shown high to very high levels of volatility across a wide range of sectors ever since.

As Google is yet to confirm that the rollout is complete, we can also assume that it is still underway. Something that could pave the way for further volatility, and see those who have already taken a hit facing additional turbulence. 

How to Minimise the SERP Changes After the May 2022 Update

Those who have benefited from the May 2022 update, understandably, be singing the praises of Google. Elsewhere, others will be facing the familiar saga of wondering where they went wrong, and what they can do to make amends.

While it’s (again) somewhat ambiguous in nature, Google offers the following advice about its core updates in general:

  • Increases and decreases in SERP rankings are inevitable
  • Contrary to popular belief, core updates do not target specific issues, but instead focus on the quality of the broader search experience
  • Where a page drops in the rankings, this does not mean it has been penalised in any way
  • High-quality content (and plenty of it) continues to hold the key to maintaining strong SERP rankings
  • Core updates should be planned for and expected as they are rolled out on a regular basis
  • The main focus of a core update is to reward sites that perform well – not to punish those that underperform

More broadly, Google (and seasoned SEO professionals in general) have two simple words of wisdom to share with those adversely affected by a core update:

Don’t panic. 

Easier said than done, as these are the kinds of things that can result in a dramatic drop in performance, practically overnight. Though from a purely logical perspective, panicking and acting rashly isn’t going to help any online business regain its prominent position in the search results.

Which Sites and Sectors Have Been Hit the Hardest?

So far, most of the volatility attributed to the May 2022 Google Core Algorithm Update has hit keywords with an MSV of less than 10,000. In terms of specific sites and sectors, Google continues to claim that its updates never have and never will be engineered to hit some types of businesses harder than others.

Cold comfort at best, given how tracking tools continue to indicate disproportionately high levels of volatility across the following sectors in particular:

  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Autos & Vehicles
  • Beauty & Fitness
  • Finance
  • Games
  • Health
  • Internet & Telecom
  • Jobs & Education
  • Law & Government
  • News
  • Online Communities
  • Pets & Animals
  • Shopping
  • Sports

By contrast, businesses operating within the travel, real estate and food and drink sectors have apparently seen little to no volatility at all.

Most of the action taking place across the above sectors has slowed significantly over recent days, having seen an initial spike after the May 25 commencement of the core update. Evidence would seem to suggest that update’s biggest impact has already been felt, and that what takes place over the next week or so should (hopefully) be a little less rocky. 

How to Survive Future Google Core Algorithm Updates 

Clawing back to strength after being hit by a core update isn’t easy. Even Google says (in its own way) that if you’ve been adversely affected by a core update, your chances of returning to full prominence and prosperity in the near future are minimal.

Or at least, before its next update is rolled out, giving you a chance to outperform your competitors.

Prevention is therefore better than cure – i.e. doing everything in your power to avoid taking a dive in the rankings in the first place. Also easier said than done, but at least in this instance, the rules are fairly consistent. 

The rules for surviving any future Google Core Algorithm Update are the same today as they have always been:

1. Diversify your Google ranking factors

To become too reliant on just a couple of ranking factors is essentially SEO a suicide. Google takes into account more than 200 ranking factors – all playing a part in determining where you appear in the rankings. Hence, the best thing you can do is diversify your Google ranking factors, rather than disproportionately focusing on the most obvious signals.

2.  Conduct regular SEO audits 

The alternative to conducting regular SEO audits is to simply assume you’re doing things right and hope for the best.  No prizes for guessing which of the two approaches has a tendency to be a recipe for disaster. If you lack the time and technical capabilities to conduct your own in-house SEO audits, consider hiring help for objective insights into your strengths and weaknesses.

3. Focus on quality content

Time and time again, Google has made clear its fondness for websites that showcase nothing but content of the highest quality. For SEO purposes, this means content that is relevant, of genuine value to its target audience and unique. Google’s job is to promote and recommend sites with the best content on the web – your job is to produce and publish it…period. 

4. Keep a close eye on analytics

A slow but consistent decline in performance can often be picked up on as a precursor to an SEO disaster.  This is why burying your head in the sand is, by far, the worst thing you can do. At all times, you need to be keeping a close eye on analytics and tracking your site’s performance. This way, you’ll have every opportunity to nip things in the bud, before they become problematic.

5. Avoid knee-jerk reactions

If things take a turn for the worse, don’t immediately assume you’re doing something catastrophically wrong. Overreacting to what could be a fairly minor issue could see you undoing much of your hard work unnecessarily. This is where careful tracking and regular SEO audits can pay dividends, helping you build a clearer picture of where you may be going wrong.

6. Hire the SEO pros

Last up, the single most effective way to keep your SEO campaign on track long-term is to hire help. Unless you have the time and resources to invest in SEO as a full-time, 24/7 effort, you benefit from the support of someone who does. All with the added bonus of a neutral third party who can assess your site and your SEO campaign objectively, free of potentially harmful bias.

For more information on any of the above or to discuss your own SEO objectives in more detail, book your obligation-free consultation with Tait Pollack today.

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