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Google May 2020 Core Update Officially Over – Time for a Do-Over?

The response to Google's May 2020 Core Update has been largely negative, as large brands rank in Positions 1 and 2 for a wide range of keywords.

Google May 2020 Core Update Officially Over – Time for a Do-Over?

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan has declared that the May 2020 Google Update rollout is officially over.

What that means is that the process of rolling out the update around the world is done and the search results should now be stable.

The response from the search community indicated a perception of problems in Google’s search results.

Many are expressing a negative sentiment for the May 2020 core algorithm update.

The overwhelming sentiment about this update was of dissatisfaction.

This is a typical response:

Complaint of Social Media SERP Domination

A popular complaint about this update is that sites like Pinterest were clogging up the search engine results pages (SERPs).

And here’s another example of someone complaining of too much Pinterest in the SERPs:

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Danny Sullivan aware of Pinterest dominating search results

Big Brand Winners

Amazon Double Listings

Another feedback about this update is that big brands like Amazon were winners.

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Etsy Double Listings

Another person tweeted SERPs with double listings from Etsy for the following search phrases:

Is the Entity ‘Etsy’ Associated with Word ‘Handmade’?

What’s strange is that Google seems to associate Etsy with the word “handmade” and ranks Etsy for almost anything with the word “handmade” in the keyword phrase.

It’s as if the entity of Etsy is closely associated with the word handmade.

A few examples out of many queries dominated by Etsy:

  • handmade fishing flies
  • handmade socks
  • handmade bongos

Handmade Bongos is a keyword phrase that is dominated with two results from Etsy, two results from eBay, and one each from Pinterest and Amazon.

Could Etsy & eBay Quarantine Bump Affect Google’s Algorithm?

Google’s algorithm can be described as being sensitive toward user expectations.  A user has expectations for the kind of answer they want when they type a query. A how-to question has the expectation for a DIY answer.

There are also situations where users tend to be satisfied with answers from a specific web page. If that’s the case, then satisfying user expectations may result in a particular web page being shown in response to a query.

Google Trends shows that Etsy has received an uptick in searches.

Could Google be rewarding Etsy with top SERP positions because it’s what users tend to be satisfied with while in quarantine?

Screenshot animation of Etsy and eBay Google Trends for the past 90 days

Amazon is also receiving a lot of quarantine related traffic, close to what is normal for the Christmas season and a seasonal July traffic bump.

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Screenshot of Google Trends graph for Amazon for the period of the last 12 months

Considering that both Etsy and Amazon are in demand by consumers, could Google be rewarding the both of them with more SERP positions because it’s what users are expecting to see?

On the opposite side, gym related sites took a hit in rankings.

Could that be because Google is responding to quarantine related search trends in which searchers don’t want to see gym sites ranking for fitness related queries?

Related: How to Analyze the Cause of a Ranking Crash

Did Google Adjust Algorithm for Quarantine?

TechnologyReview.com, a magazine by MIT published an article about how AI is being disrupted by the extreme changes in human behavior due to the pandemic.

Google’s algorithm has AI and machine learning models.

If these models are being disrupted by pandemic changes in search behavior, then what Google may have done during this two week long algorithm update is to make changes in the way Google responds to search behavior.

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According to the article:

“The ripple effects have…also affected artificial intelligence, causing hiccups for the algorithms that run behind the scenes in inventory management, fraud detection, marketing, and more.

Machine-learning models trained on normal human behavior are now finding that normal has changed, and some are no longer working as they should.

Machine-learning models are designed to respond to changes. But most are also fragile; they perform badly when input data differs too much from the data they were trained on. It is a mistake to assume you can set up an AI system and walk away…”

Unusual Update

There is something unusual in this update.

Many people are feeling it in a way that creates the perception that something is not right with the SERPs.

The change is manifesting as big brands dominating the top of the search results for certain queries.

For other keywords social media seems to be dominating.

There seems to be some relation to quarantine related search trends but we’re not sure.

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It could be a coincidence.

Until Google publishes something like a general comment on what happened, many publishers and those in the SEO community are going to continue simmering with negative sentiment for Google.

Should Google roll out a do-over in June?

Related: How Can I Recover My Organic Traffic?

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Roger Montti

Need a site audit or SEO advice? Roger Montti is a search marketer with 20 years experience. I am a ... [Read full bio]

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