Google rolled out one of its most controversial core algorithm updates on May 4, 2020. And it has caused a ruckus in the online community ever since. SERP volatility was on an all-time high, and there were very high fluctuations in rankings.
A few businesses did see an increase in traffic, but the majority saw a dip in their rankings, and this led to a massive hit on their revenue. The most severely hit industries were health, news, finance, recipe, travel, dating, and real estate.
This May core algorithm update was widely criticized. It was not received well because of its release during the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of crisis like these, when businesses are barely making any money, this update seemed very untimely and unethical to quite a few.
If you are one of these worst-hit businesses, you have landed at the right place at the right time. It’s time to take a step back and see what went wrong so that you can take action today to gain back all your lost traffic.
So, read on to get a step-by-step actionable plan to rise above mediocrity, get back on top of the SERPs, and stay there for a long time.
Why did Google release its May 2020 update?
There’s been no definite answer on this from Google. But speculations are that Google released its May 2020 update because of the drastic difference between pre-COVID and COVID era.
The search volume of many keywords has significantly changed since the pandemic. For example, travel-related keyword searches have reduced drastically. While keywords related to finance and health have been on a significant rise.
Extreme variations in human behavior during the pandemic have disrupted the existing AI. And Google’s algorithm works on machine learning and AI, which is why it was probably time for an update.
The first step to recover from Google’s May 2020 update
Sadly, Google didn’t provide any official information on why some businesses were affected or what they should do to recover from it. However, Google certainly provides some general guidelines about all of its core updates.
The obvious first step towards getting back your rankings would be to conduct a site-wide analysis of your content and see where you are lacking. You need to figure out the gaps in your content by asking these questions in line with what Google suggests:
- Is your content original and doesn’t just state the obvious?
- Are your articles comprehensive, substantial, and error-free?
- Does every piece of your content help out your audience in some way?
- Are your post titles descriptive and summarize the page’s content? Or do they sound click-baity?
- Is your content trustworthy enough, and does it show evidence of expertise?
- Do you produce content that is better and more insightful than your competitors?
- Have you strategized your content with user intent in mind?
- Does your website provide information that is misleading or inaccurate?
If you are not sure about any of these, then that’s probably why Google’s May update affected your site too. Now that you know what could have gone wrong, it’s time to make some amends for better!
Steps to Recover from Google’s May 2020 update
It’s interesting to note that time and again, Google validates its algorithm by appointing people to manually go through websites on the internet.
For this purpose, it provides us with quality rater guidelines that clearly state what exactly its algorithm is looking for.
Based on these quality rater guidelines, and Google’s general suggestions on any core update, here are a few things that can be a good starting point to recover from the May 2020 update:
1. Fix your About page
Google keeps stressing on the importance of disclosing crucial information about your website. And also about the people responsible for your site’s main content. So, the obvious place to start would be your “About” page.
Chalk out your About page content so that it demonstrates experience and expertise in your domain. A good example would be this About page by WebMD, a top-ranking site in the health niche. You will trust the website content just by taking one look at their About page.
- Provide clear information about the backgrounds and credibility of all the people responsible for the website’s content.
- Display any kind of social proof such as testimonials, ratings, awards, and badges.
2. Optimized your content for user intent
When a user types in a keyword in Google, the first thing that Google does is – it understands the intent of the user. After this, it uses “aggregated and anonymized interaction data” to check whether the search results are relevant. This data is then converted into signals which help the AI to check the relevancy of your page.
Many businesses make the mistake of focusing solely on SERP rankings. They end up ignoring the user’s thought process and actual intent behind the search term. This is a huge mistake that can hurt user experience and ultimately lead to a drop in revenue.
So, what can you do to match the relevancy of the query that any user is looking for? The best thing you can do is to optimize your content for user intent:
- The first step would be to take your focus keyword and think about the user’s micro-moments. Understand what the person is looking for when he/she searches for that term.
- Any user lands on your website just by looking at your headline and meta tag. It is important to provide relevant and valuable information to the user as promised in your title and meta description. If you fail to do this, you will get increased bounce rates, which could have been the reason for your traffic drop.
3. Analyze UX signals and optimize for them
Analyzing inputs from your analytics is as important as the production of good content. Your analytics can give you eye-opening insights about your user experience.
- Firstly, look at UX signals like bounce rate, dwell time, and organic CTR for each piece of content. Analyze the behavior flow of your users to get a fair view of what might be going wrong with your user experience.
- The next step would be to optimize your content accordingly. For example, if your bounce rates are too high, you might want to create more engaging content. You should also try to structure your content the right way, and increase the word length of your pages. Doing this will increase your rankings in a short time.
4. Get rid of low-quality content
You might already have a few top-ranking high-quality pages on your website. It is important to keep producing similar ones and updating these pages.
But, it’s also highly likely that a few pieces of low-quality or thin content might be responsible for pulling down your overall domain authority and SERP rankings.
Google clearly states what kind of content would they categorize as low-quality:
- So, start by going through your analytics. Pick all the low performing pages. You can also manually go through your content to find all the pages that do not have any substantial content and are just stating the obvious.
- The next step is to see what might be lacking in those pages. If something seems obvious, you can try to update the content and fix the errors. Monitor these pages for the next few days to see if there’s any improvement. Another option is to simply remove these pages from your site. You will be better off without such content.
5. Outperform your competitors
Google’s main goal is to pull up the best possible source of information for its users. So it is obvious that you need to outperform your competitors in all possible ways to rank higher.
And how do you do that?
- Create 10X, high-quality content that surpasses your competition in all possible ways.
- Conduct original research, create case studies or infographics, which will get you tons of backlinks, and you will eventually beat your competitors.
- It is important to take the existing sources of information and bring in your useful insights instead of simply stating the obvious.
- Going in deep on one sub-topic will be more beneficial than covering a broad range of topics. Content clusters help create content that covers any topic in-depth and increases your topical authority.
- Creating apt visuals, charts, and graphics are a few other important things that will help you stand out amongst the crowd.
- Google also talks about the purpose of a page. Every single page should have a purpose, and every element of the page should contribute to it.
- Internal linking is another super-important factor. Using this, Google will understand your content and its context better.
6. Focus on quality backlinks over quantity
Backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors for Google and hence are very crucial if you want to play the long game.
But, many people resort to using black hat and grey hat techniques to build links. These links end up being irrelevant, low-quality, and spammy, which can do more harm than good to your rankings.
- Firstly, you should stop chasing useless backlinks that come from irrelevant low-authority sites. It’s time for you to focus on building high-quality links that will get you the right traction.
- You can consider effective link-building techniques such as guest posting, customized email outreach, giving podcast interviews, building your brand authority, and conducting original research to gain high-quality backlinks.
7. Improve EAT of your site
EAT(Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) has become one of the most integral aspects of winning organic search. An EAT optimized site will always stand out amongst the sea of other websites.
So, what can you do to improve EAT for your site?
- Ensure that you display expertise on each piece of your content. You can do this by citing reliable sources, backing up your opinions with solid data, and adding a clear author bio that shows the author’s experience.
- You can also run all of your content through industry experts to ensure that the content that you have been putting out is credible and trustworthy. This would be especially important if your site comes under the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) category.
- Ensure that your content is up-to-date, accurate, and relevant. Otherwise, Google is going to flag you for misleading information.
- Remove any disruptive or degrading ads from your site that distract your user from the main content. Any lead generation popups on your site should not be intrusive to the user.
8. Fix any technical SEO errors
Technical SEO is as important as your content. If your content has SEO errors, Google would not be able to crawl your website the right way, no matter how authoritative and high-quality your content is! And this might also be the reason why a few of your pages are not getting any traffic.
So, conduct an audit of your website and improve your site’s technical SEO.
There is no sure-shot magical formula to bounce back from Google’s core algorithm updates. The best possible thing you can do is adhere to Google’s quality guidelines and consistently put out content relevant to your audience.
Instead of getting too caught up in the SEO race, take time to create and produce top-notch content and stress more on improving EAT of the overall site. By following these tips, you are likely to bounce back and also shield your business from similar Google updates in the future.