The Week in Search is a weekly column produced by the Studio team to keep marketing professionals and ecommerce merchants up to date on changes in the search industry, and provide valuable context on what it all means. If you have questions or think we missed something, email us directly.

Google Rolls Out May 2020 Core Algorithm Update

On May 4th, Google announced via the @searchliaison Twitter account that they were going to release a broad core algorithm update called the May 2020 Core Update.

Their guidance – as usual – was sparse and gave no indication as to what the update entailed.

The fallout was nearly immediate. You can see some of the comments at this link on SERoundtable.

We published a retrospective on the May 2020 Core Update here, but for those who don’t want to the long read, here’s the gist of what we know.

  • This is the 2nd Core Update of 2020 (first was in Jan 2020)
  • Happened in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic and just before nation was preparing to open up for business
  • Had a much bigger impact than January 2020, September 2019, and June 2019 Core Updates
  • General consensus among SEOs is that this update harmed high quality sites and improved the rankings of seemingly lower-quality pages
  • There was constant chatter on forums through April on search algo changes and updates, though none were acknowledged by Google

Studio Takeaway: This is one of the biggest Google algorithm updates since the Penguin or Panda updates. Of all the Broad Core updates that Google has rolled out over the last several years, none have had quite as big of an impact as the May 2020 one has. We will be keeping an eye on this update and continue to publish recommendations and insights into how to recover from it.

Google Search Console Now Shows Reports for Special Announcements

The Google Webmaster blog announced that it is now showing reporting data on “Special Announcements” enhancements that tell webmasters if there are any issues with their implementation and how to fix them.

Here’s the update from the blog:

“A new report is now available in Search Console for sites that have implemented SpecialAnnouncement structured data. The report allows you to see errors, warnings, and valid pages for markup implemented on your site.”

“In addition, if you fix an issue, you can use the report to validate it, which will trigger a process where Google recrawls your affected pages. Learn more about the Rich result status reports.”

Google Announces “Web Vitals” Metrics for a Healthy Site

This week, the Chromium blog announced the release of “Web Vitals,” a series of metrics that are designed to clearly tell webmasters the quality of their site experience.

From the Chromium blog:

“While some aspects of user experience are site and context specific, there is a common set of signals — “Core Web Vitals” — that is critical to all web experiences. Such core user experience needs include loading experience, interactivity, and visual stability of page content, and combined are the foundation of the 2020 Core Web Vitals.”

They provided a handy link to the Web Vitals hub.

Here is the breakdown for the three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint measures perceived load speed and marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded.
  • First Input Delay measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.

Studio Takeaway: For years, webmasters have been touting the importance of site speed and UX as it pertains to your ranking and authority, but there were never any hard and fast metrics to judge a site by – it was all based on assumptions. Now, with the release of Core Web Vitals, webmasters can easily assess the performance of their site.

Google has also announced that they will be incorporating Page Experience and Core Web Vitals metrics as a ranking factor coming in 2021.

Other Interesting Links