Google released an update on May 4th of this year, and as it is the case for most core updates, this one has been making a lot of waves in the industry. It created lots of volatility in search results, and many sites saw some or all of their results suffer as a result. On the other hand, others may have woken up to some of their results actually improving.
What differentiates core updates from other ones is that they have a more far-reaching effect; you can’t afford to ignore them. If you are one of those who have been penalized, it’s important to understand what this update is about exactly and take the steps necessary to correct the situation. Let’s take a look at a few things you should know about this core update – and what you should do.
Who Were Affected by the Updates?
Like with many core updates, we can see a trend in the type of sites that were affected more than others. Some of the fields that were the most affected were travel, real estate, health, people & society, and pets & animals. We’ve also seen some volatility in local search results, but a lot of it was already happening before May 4th, so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions here.
It’s also important to note that unlike some of the other updates, many big names seemed to be affected as well. Many in the SEO community like to spread the idea that domain authority is everything and that updates only affect those with poor authority, but that’s just plain false. Sites like LinkedIn, CreditKarma.com, Spotify, and the New York Post have all seen drops for some of their keywords, which shows that authority sites have been targeted as well.
Is it Another E-A-T Update?
If you don’t know what E-A-T means, you need to do learn immediately because we can expect it to be a central principle in SEO for the next coming years. E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trust, and it seems to be something Google and Matt Cutts are very adamant about.
At the end of the day, all that Google wants is to provide highly relevant, informative, and authoritative content coming from expertise that fits the audience’s needs the best. That’s it. The moment you understand this principle and how to integrate it as part of your SEO strategy is the moment you’ll actually understand what SEO is truly about.
However, while E-A-T may be one of the factors, it doesn’t seem to be the main and only focus of this update. For one, in a lot of previous E-A-T centered updates, sites that had strong E-A-T all seem to be among the top winners, which is not the case this time. Not only that but in many of these past updates, sites where E-A-T is particularly important, like finance and health, were some of the most targeted sites. This doesn’t seem to be the case here.
A much broader set of sites has been affected as well, which lets us think that this update might be broader in scope. Some have also been speculating that it was about user metrics instead. As a matter of fact, Marcus Tober suggested that Google might be using user data like click-through rates in this case.
Search Intent Might Be Key
What this suggests is that search intent, a metric that many still don’t pay attention enough to, might be a major component to this update, just like marketing trends influence other decisions. Don’t take it from us, however. In a recent memo on core updates that was released at the end of last year, Google had a few interesting observations on what they considered good content.
Among these factors, we could see things such as improving the quality of content and providing substantial additional value, but they also focused on things like how accurate the headlines are and if they actually fit the content on the page. Observations like these might seem minor, but when we look at this update and what observers had to say about it, it seems that search intent might be one of the main differentiators between this core update and the ones before it.
This means you might have to tighten up your meta tags and descriptions and monitor search intent more cautiously from now on. Some might be able to do it manually or by using analytical tools, but if you’re unfamiliar with them, you might have to work with a team who can help reconcile content with intent and create content that will answer searchers’ queries while creating eye-catching and descriptive markup to increase CTR and other metrics.
Updating Content Could Also be a Major Factor
Another thing that might have a direct impact on results after this update is how fresh your content is. One study, in particular, looked at 641 different sites that were updating their content on a regular basis. Out of these sites, only 38 saw a dip of more than 10% after the update, while more than 180 saw their traffic grow by more than 10% over the same period.
You Don’t Need to Release New Content Every Day, However
While this shows that constantly updating your site’s content is essential, it doesn’t mean you have to constantly create new content every day. Updating means making the content better through adjustments or making it more relevant to the time it was published. You could also take steps to make it more useful and actionable, such as adding an infographic, for instance.
Another thing you’ll have to watch out for is thin content. In the same study, out of the 400 sites that were flagged for thin content, about 127 saw a significant drop in rankings. This means either improving thin content or tossing it and using a 301 redirect to send visitors to a better, more recent, and more relevant resource. These are some of the things that we know so far about Google’s latest core update. As ever, you should put most of your effort into producing highly relevant content your audience will love and want to share. You also want to focus on what they really want and do your best to provide it.