Google's New Algorithm Update May 2020

Google has rolled out a new core search algorithm update and called it "May 2020 Core Update." This post provides information and insight into this new core update.

Kristel Nisda
SEO Specialist

Google has begun carrying out a new core search algorithm update and named it “May 2020 Core Update”. The latest update comes months after the last core algorithm back in January 2020. The goal behind these changes is to enhance the quality of the results that users get when entering a search query into the web.

As with the past several core updates, Google shared this guideline as its main points of reference about the goals of the algorithm. 

May 2020 Core Update 

As per usual, Google did not reveal precise information about what has changed in the search algorithm to avoid the results being manipulated. It is also important to realise that broad core updates from Google don't generally target a specific industry. Google merely advised focusing on bringing the best and quality content as possible.

A tweet posted by Google

The Purpose of the Core Updates

The latest update is a comprehensive core upgrade algorithm that will bring a lot of improvements to Google's search algorithms and systems. This is unlike the usual improvements the organisation gradually makes to enhance the search results.

“Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as ‘core updates.' They're designed to ensure that overall, we're delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers,” Google noted in their blog defining the core algorithm updates.

Impact of the Google May 20202 Core Update

In the meantime, a lot of webmasters have reported on the effects of Google Core Update. A recent SEMRush report shows the list of most affected industry categories. This is the breakdown of SEMRush's recent industry ranking volatility by category:

There is no specific action to recover from the effect of core updates, a negative impact may not signal that means that you have violated Google’s webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to manual penalties. The changes are about improving their system to assess content and improve the overall quality of the search results. 

Broader update to enhance the Google search results

Google defines core updates as "important, broad improvements to their search algorithms and systems designed to ensure that overall they provide relevant and authoritative content to searchers." 

Changes in search rankings 

Changes in search rankings are a reflection of the content relevance in the search query. This means the more the content of a page matches a search query, the more likely it will be to achieve a good ranking moved higher. 

Drops and gains because of the algorithm updates (which is common)

It's inevitable that after Google makes some algorithm-level improvements, some websites face falls, while the others get some traffic gains. There is no hard and fast rule for resolving these impacts after a roll-out update begins. Nonetheless, it's easier to use analytics to grasp the website's ranking changes.

Google Updates: What Webmasters, Content Creators and SEOs can do

As explained, websites that have experienced a drop after the core update don't have to fix anything. Moreover, there might not be much to fix.

Google understands those who do less well following a shift in the core update may still feel they need to do something. However, they recommend ensuring that you have the best content you can deliver. That is what their algorithms are looking for to reward. 

Having said that, the webmasters and search engine optimisation (SEO) teams should remain focused on delivering the best content across their websites. If you've taken losses from the core update, it's worth evaluating your content if your content suits your visitors needs well. You may conduct a website content audit asking these questions.

Content and quality - Does the content provide an accurate, thorough or comprehensive summary of the topic? Does the title of the article and/or page provide a concise, helpful description of the content?

Expertise - Is this content written by a professional or enthusiast who knows the subject demonstrably well? Is the content free of factual errors which are easily verified? Is the content trustworthy?

Presentation - Is the content well created, or did it seem sloppy or hasty? Does the content contain an excessive number of ads which distract or interfere with the main content?

Comparative - Does the content offer significant value in the search results as compared to other pages?

Update: May 2020 Core Update is officially over

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan has announced the launch of Google's May 2020 update is officially over. This means the two-week algorithm update is now done and should be now stable.

However, many have shared their negative sentiment about Google's May 2020 Core Update.

Majority of the complaints about this update is that the search engine results were dominated by social media sites like Pinterest.


Another feedback from this update is major brands like Amazons were big winners.


Another responded that Etsy is earning double listings with search phrases which is not ideal with users expectations.

Seeing that both Etsy and Amazon are in high demand, could Google reward both of them with more SERP positions because that's what users want to see? Google could be responding to quarantine related search trends.

Google’s algorithm uses AI and machine learning models. According to an article from, they have mentioned how AI is being affected by the drastic changes in human behaviour due to the pandemic. 

“The ripple effects have been seen across retail supply chains.

But they 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 behaviour are now finding that normal has changed, and some are no longer working as they should.” 

Machine-learning models have been developed to adapt to changes. Yet most of them are also fragile; they perform poorly when input data varies too much from the data they have been trained on.

If these models are being affected by pandemic changes in search behaviour, what Google may have done during this May Core 2020 update is to make improvements to the way Google responds to search behaviour.

What's next?

To summarise the effect of core update

  1. Most would feel that the latest core update is a little peculiar, and there's something wrong with the SERPS
  2. Major brands like Amazon, Ebay are dominating the search results for certain queries
  3. Social media sites seems dominating the SERPs in some keyword phrases
  4. There seems to be a certain connection with the quarantine-related keywords queries and recent drastic changes in search trends

Reading the response from the search community indicated a perception of issue in Google’s search results. As a result, a few people from the community are hoping that Google will roll out early in June.

The latest update could be a little unusual, until Google releases something like a general statement about what happened, we can always hope that Google will listen and continue to improve it in a manner that would result in better visibility for the sites as well.

For most anything, keep an open mind. As with any update of algorithms, some sites might see drops in keyword rankings and organic traffic or gains. There is nothing wrong with pages which may not perform due to the core update. The effect of core updates essentially gives us information about Google's broader intent and how best to work with that intention. It's the users who influence the results of the search. Try to get in the user mindset. Thinking in this way will lead to ideas and approaches that can also lead to better rankings.

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