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INSIGHTS The latest Google 2020 update

05 Jan 2021

3 minute read

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The old adage goes that the only thing consistent in life is change. Seemingly, the same can be said in the world of search marketing, with Google consistently releasing changes and updates as to how websites rank within its index. These updates are internal changes within the search engine’s algorithm whereby various website signals are evaluated, examined and prioritised for user queries.

These general updates to the search engine’s core algorithm happen several times over the course of the year, with the latest 2020 update taking place on the 4th of May. Given this timeframe, it was announced that the search engine giant would be making core changes on the 3rd of December. This is the longest time difference between updates seen in a while. This delay is speculated by experts to be due to a number of global external factors such as the global impact of COVID-19, the US election and the increased traffic generated by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This latest news has needlessly left many marketers feeling nervous and uneasy. 

The general impact of this core change to Google’s algorithm was felt, with many experts and professionals in the field immediately impacted. This was seen with countless websites showing sharp declines from as early as the 4th of December. These were shown for both organic rankings and traffic. Many experts further predicted that this may be due to the search engine making changes to specific search result types, with stacked listings potentially being removed. This was refuted, with greater volatility accounted for websites ranking on Google’s first page. Deeper insights and findings for this change reveal that the biggest changes took place within the top 10 positions, while lowered volatility was shown for pages ranking in the top three and top five respectively. It is also worth noting that the volatility for these terms was noted to be higher than previously seen in May.

Adding to the increased volatility of search rankings for the latest update, it is expected that a number of niches and industries were impacted with differing severity. Notable findings revealed that the early losers of the update were shown to be encyclopedia sites, ecommerce, real estate, health, travel, finance and law. It is also worth noting that all industries and niches were impacted differently for both mobile and desktop, with the largest impact for desktop being in real estate, health, travel, finance and law. These industries were followed up by pet stores and music sites. However, it was not all doom and gloom, with early winners consisting of high value content sites such as and

Explanations of the impact of these changes potentially indicate that Google is continually rewarding high quality and credible sites that are producing well-written, user-relevant and insightful content, while continuing to penalise sites that are not following these guidelines. This may indicate that Google truly is prioritising sites that have established their expertise, authority and trust for content production, indicating that the search engine is trying to mitigate the impact of misinformation being produced for users. This is the general theme of the initial findings, however it is still early days of the rollout and further analysis of the full impact of this update will be needed over the course of the next two to three weeks.

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So, with all this being said, what does this update mean to you and your business?

What is the update? 

In the early stages of the announcement of this latest update very few key insights have been given as to how the algorithm has changed. It is speculated that Google is continually prioritising user experience within its algorithm while further continuing to prioritise the strength of branded search. This is noted with the decline that was seen for Amazon and However, despite these initial findings, no clear pattern has emerged as such, but it is expected that the full impact of the latest update will potentially take place over the next two three to weeks.

Who will be impacted?

Given the findings revealed from notable sources, and the current post COVID-19 climate, it is a good indication that the search engine will continue to consider the impact of duplicate, user-relevant content within industries such as retail, health, travel, music and directory websites. This may be in part due to the fact that the search engine is dedicated to ensure user safety and relevance to these concerns. This is a major concern for travel and real estate websites, with them needing to ensure that these sites are providing content around these issues. Further sites that may be impacted were shown for music websites that may be limited in the current production of new or relevant content for user queries. 

This was seen with marked declines reported by sites such as Pinterest and Spotify. Adding to this, health websites were also impacted, further showing that Google is trying to mitigate the spread of misinformation in the current COVID-19 climate. The final early loser for this latest update was shown to be ecommerce websites. This may be due to the fact that many of these sites are normally plagued by duplicate content issues, with very little focus on optimising these elements.

How to move forward? 

Given that the full impact of this update has not yet fully been felt worldwide, it is best practice to ensure that whatever your industry, you are consistently monitoring your website traffic. Along with this, it is advised to ensure that in whatever industry you operate, time and effort are dedicated to following Google’s EAT guidelines. It is also advisable to ensure that any marketing efforts around the production and optimisation of website content is focused on providing unique, insightful and relevant content to users. Finally, it is important to ensure that any marketing efforts are providing users with an optimised experience for both mobile and desktop searches.

Given the early impact of the latest core algorithm update, it is advised that, no matter your industry, you invest in your website’s SEO and design to ensure that you stay ahead of any updates or concerns that may impact your business moving forward. If this is something you’d like to consider, get in touch with The Escape’s talented SEO team to ensure that your website’s elements are optimised and you can avoid any hiccups in the future.

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