Getting on the first page of Google is an investment that brings invaluable returns. So, it’s no wonder that every time Google releases a new search algorithm update, the search engine optimization (SEO) community goes into a frenzy.
That’s precisely what happened during the Google core update of May 2022.
It was one of the most significant algorithm updates to hit Google and was felt heavily by the SEO community. Some webmasters said they lost as much as 90% of web traffic.
If the algorithm update negatively affects your website, you can recover. And we’ll show you how.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Table of Contents
What Is a Google Core Update?
Core updates are changes Google makes to its search engine algorithm to improve the results’ overall relevancy and user experience. They improve how Google assesses content to deliver the best answer that matches a searcher’s intent.
Core updates often bring significant changes that impact Google search results, but these updates can affect websites differently. Some websites don’t feel the impact, while others experience a significant drop in traffic, like during the May 2022 core update.
Google Core Update May 2022
The long-awaited Google May 2022 core update started on May 26, 2022, and finished two weeks later, on June 9, 2022. The broad core algorithm update targeted all types of content and focused on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
How To Know if You Were Negatively Affected
The thing about Google algorithm updates is that no one knows their nature unless Google tells us.
So, how can you tell if the update negatively affected your website?
You can examine two things to analyze the impact of a Google core update on organic search results: visibility and volatility.
Visibility is a metric compiled from various search factors to measure a website’s visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
A website with a high visibility score ranks for more high-volume keywords that attract clicks. And decreasing visibility means the domain is losing keywords.
Volatility refers to how much visibility increases or decreases. High volatility means a flurry of activity, which often signals an algorithm update.
Looking at visibility and volatility around the time Google announces an update clues you into how it affects your website.
Impacts of the May 2022 Google Algorithm Update
Semrush released a report about the initial impacts of the May 2022 core update.
The Semrush Sensor, its tool for measuring volatility, caught high-ranking fluctuations that lasted for a day. The fluctuations were similar to those observed during the July 2021 and November 2021 core updates.
The initial impacts of these previous updates would last three to four days or longer.
How Much Volatility Did the May 2022 Core Update Cause?
According to Semrush reports, the peak impact of the May 2022 core update was similar to that of the November 2021 update.
Peak volatility levels for both updates were above 9 (out of 10) across all verticals. In contrast, peak volatility for mobile and desktop results averaged 9.4 (out of 10) — similar to those found during the November 2021 update.
But the November 2021 update had a much bigger impact on closer inspection.
Desktop volatility was at 5.6 before the November 2021 update. It went as high as 9.3 after the update (+3.7 points).
On the other hand, desktop volatility was at 6.4 before the May 2022 update. It went as high as 9.4 after the update. (+3 points). Mobile volatility during the May 2022 update increased by 2.8 points.
Which Verticals Did the May 2022 Algorithm Update Affect?
Semrush Sensor data also measured the volatility across different verticals.
These verticals experienced the most significant change in desktop volatility:
- Real estate (+5.3)
- Pets and animals (+3.9)
- Travel & Fishing(+3.7)
Rounding out the top five were books & literature and hobbies & leisure.
These same categories also experienced the most change in mobile volatility — save for travel (which was replaced by health).
Takeaway: The update did not target specific industries.
Mordy Oberstein, Wix’s head of SEO, examined Semrush’s June 1 Sensor data and found that the update did not target certain industries.
He also believes that Google doesn’t target specific verticals. Instead, updates reveal a consistent trend across multiple content types within the vertical.
Oberstein suggested people need to look at how the update affects the majority. He advised looking at what happens at each page level “because you won’t be able to diagnose what’s happening until you look at a specific ranking shift.”
How Did the May 2022 Google Algorithm Update Affect Rankings?
Broad-core updates affect ranking patterns. Some updates cause rankings to decline. But Google balances those instances by improving the rankings of the remaining URLs to replace the demoted pages.
Semrush looked at URLs that moved to the top 10 for the first time to measure the update’s impact. These were the findings:
- 6.7% of the top 10 websites used to rank in position 20 or beyond before the May 2022 and November 2021 core updates.
- During the May 2022 update, 17% of the top 20 results used to rank beyond position 20 (versus 16.2% during the November 2021 update).
Semrush also looked at the parity between rankings across different verticals. It found that websites that were hurt by the update lost an average of 3.8 positions. Meanwhile, those whose rankings improved went up an average of 3.4 spots.
Most industries gained rankings overall — except for arts & entertainment and books & literature. Both industries lost more than they gained.
Many website owners also reported losing featured snippets. This happened because losing organic rankings makes it harder for websites to rank for featured snippets. But it was unusual that the websites losing featured snippets weren’t dropping in organic rankings.
Takeaway: There was no significant change in the percentage of websites whose rankings improved.
These results show that algorithm updates reward websites — such as those ranking high in the SERPs — that focus on providing helpful content that improves user search experience.
Negatively affected verticals, such as arts & entertainment or books & literature, should improve their website content.
How Did the Update Affect E-Commerce Websites?
Semrush found that branded retail websites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay had among the most remarkable visibility changes.
What did they do differently than smaller retailers? They implemented product schema.
Google’s product review updates could have also contributed to the change in visibility, as prominent websites like Amazon and eBay have more product reviews.
Takeaway: Optimize for content like product reviews to help searchers determine whether to purchase an item. Also, optimize for metadata, which helps search engines find your content.
How Did the Update Impact Video-Heavy Websites?
Core updates try to match search intent — and search intent often changes. The increased visibility in video-heavy websites shows interest in video content.
Google’s ability to match search queries with relevant videos could suggest it’s improved machine learning around parsing video content. Expect more helpful image and video content, especially when Google fully integrates with MUM.
How Did the Update Impact Affiliate Sites?
SEO experts report that site owners running affiliate and product review websites are among the negatively impacted websites. It’s unsurprising, as these websites need more value-added content to differentiate them.
This occurrence also begged the question of whether link quality was part of the update. Still, Google has repeatedly confirmed no correlation between demoted websites, spammy or paid link profiles, and core updates.
Many negatively impacted websites built links for SEO (e.g., HARO mentions, quotes that linked back to their websites, and guest posts on authoritative websites).
- The update doesn’t affect backlinks. When you engage in link-building activities, get relevant and high-quality backlinks.
- The update reinforces the importance of helpful content. Create valuable content for your affiliate and review websites to differentiate them.
Other Affected Websites
Other negatively affected websites include:
- News websites that wrote about generalist topics like celebrity news, sports, and business. According to Malte Landwehr, former VP of product at Searchmetrics, “Google knows that while you may have the latest news … it does not mean you are what people searching for [queries like] ‘eyeshadow’ … are looking for.”
- References websites, such as dictionaries, online encyclopedias, lyrics, and stock photo websites. Landwehr explained that Google considers these pages “backfill,” and they rarely match search intent.
Takeaway: Search intent matters. Part of creating helpful content is ensuring that it answers your searchers’ questions.
How Long Before You Recover from the Core Update?
If you make improvements, Google shared that content impacted by a broad core update may not recover until the release of the following broad core update.
Google doesn’t give us much guidance about recovering from a rank drop. But it does provide plenty of information on creating a great website that survives these core updates.
How To Recover from Google’s May 2022 Core Update
You can summarize Google’s advice into four best practices:
- Determine the goal of the update.
- Do a website audit (check your site rankings).
- Update your website strategically.
- Prioritize content.
Let’s go over them.
Determine the Goal of the Update
When your traffic or rankings take a dip, wait. Don’t act immediately. Let the update run its course.
What you should do to recover from a Google update depends on the nature of your website and whether the update affected it. For example, if you have an e-commerce site and the update relates to product listings, it will impact you.
Once you know what the update is about, you can determine the best way to deal with it.
The May 2022 Google core update was content centered. So, you have nothing to worry about if you already create great content.
Check Web Traffic and Keyword Rankings
Once you’ve let the update rollout finish and know what it’s about, check website traffic to see if your website or keyword rankings experienced a significant traffic drop. Which pages and what types of searches saw the biggest impact?
As Oberstein advised, look closely to understand how each page performs on its own.
- Why is a particular page performing well after the update?
- What makes it different from other pages?
- Does it help the searcher?
- Does it provide expert insights that no other website could?
Next, check your competitors’ positions on the SERPs, especially those who usually rank well for keywords you want to target. Use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to see how their rankings have changed since the update.
From there, you’ll know whether you need to make any changes to your website.
If you’re unsure where to start, contact SEO experts like Infront for a professional consultation.
Update Your Site Strategically
You know what the update is, where you’re at in terms of traffic, and how you stand against competitors. Now, you can develop strategies to help your website recover.
Every company’s priorities are different, so focus on strategies that work for you — especially if you have limited resources. Focus your efforts on pages that make the most impact for your team and are easy wins. These drive results more quickly.
List these efforts. For example, your blog posts drive the most organic traffic and bring in a lot of impact. Best of all, they’re easy to update.
Next, list the negatively affected web pages. These are your high-priority pages. Check the list — are there any negatively affected pages you can modify minimally yet see a significant impact?
When performing updates, prioritize according to the following:
- High-priority pages; easy wins
- High-priority pages; complex updates
- Low-priority pages; easy wins
- Low-priority pages; complex updates
Create High-Quality Content
To mitigate the effects of future core updates, ensure that you produce high-quality content that meets a searcher’s intent.
Most websites that the May 2022 core update didn’t affect had skimmable and well-organized content with expert insights.
Follow Google’s helpful content and Search Quality Evaluator guidelines to aid you in writing. You don’t have to create new content from scratch — you can improve existing content.
Improve Your E-A-T Score
Google says that assessing your content in terms of E-A-T may help with the different core update signals. According to content marketer Will James, the May core update negatively impacted websites because they lacked E-A-T.
Follow Google’s guidelines to improve your E-A-T score. Some things you can do:
- Get links and mentions on authoritative websites.
- Use schema to improve Google’s understanding of the entities associated with your website.
- Ensure your technical SEO is on point. It’s going to be hard for Google to crawl an error-riddled website.
Final Thoughts: How To Recover from Google’s May 2022 Algorithm Update
Google core updates often affect websites, and the May 2022 core update was no exception. Expert findings show that it was comparable to the November 2021 update.
When you first experience a drop in rankings after an algorithm update, don’t panic. Remember, Google doesn’t intend for its core updates to penalize your website. If you follow content best practices, you won’t lose much traffic.
Keep the following in mind when recovering from a core update:
- Let the update run its course.
- Check your web traffic and search rankings and those of your competitors.
- Try to learn as much about the update as possible to make a game plan.
- Always aim to create high-quality content that meets the searcher’s intent.
If algorithm updates overwhelm you, hire SEO experts to diagnose the problem and implement solutions for you.
Contact Infront today.