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 May 2020 Core Update rollout is complete.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 18, 2020
The overwhelming sentiment about this update was of dissatisfaction.
This is a typical response:
Yup. Complete and flawed as hell.
— Rosenstand-SEO (@Rosenstand_SEO) May 18, 2020
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).
What's with the Pinterest infusion in this update?
— Easy Home Bar Plans (@HomeBarPlans) May 18, 2020
And here’s another example of someone complaining of too much Pinterest in the SERPs:
So do you realize that there are keywords where basically all results are from Pinterest with different country's TLDs right.
— Guillermo Ynsfrán (@guillermoyns) May 18, 2020
Danny Sullivan aware of Pinterest dominating search results
Yes I replied to someone else already that we'll look into the situation where we have multiple pages from different country domains.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 22, 2020
This is Not #Google #May #Core #Update it is Social media Core Update. Because #Pinterest, #Facebook, #Reddit, #Amazon, #Quora, and other Sites are ranking without any content only with Images or just a few lines while websites with High-Quality content are outranked.
— Ammad Ali (@AmmadAOfficial) May 19, 2020
Big Brand Winners
Amazon Double Listings
Another feedback about this update is that big brands like Amazon were winners.
Search for “fishing game” in uk. Amazon 3 listings, argos 2 listings. This can be new normal?
— Roman Sadowski (@sadowski_roman) May 18, 2020
Same thing. when find for any product always show ebay or amazon only
— lara craft (@shudancegirls) May 18, 2020
I get 4 amazon results.
— Ste Hughes (@SteHughes90) May 18, 2020
We get 3-4 for our main kws. We’ve found this changes with each core update. Sometimes we’re above amazon, sometimes we’re below.
When there are 3-4 amazons listings, we’re often pushed off page 1 which now only has 8 traditional organic listings.
Google revenue tactic?
— Hon. 1st Self Made Trillionaire (@YiannisKrinelos) May 18, 2020
Etsy Double Listings
Another person tweeted SERPs with double listings from Etsy for the following search phrases:
Hi. With many searches, you are now linking to Etsy twice, with the first two links. Both Etsy pages contain the same content. This is not ideal for google users:https://t.co/mI2WHRk88vhttps://t.co/BwAXsfDzpXhttps://t.co/bUcJdaGbDf
Etc Etc Etc
— Jeff Benzenberg (@jeffbenzenberg) May 18, 2020
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?
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.
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.
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…”
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.
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?