The December 2020 Core Update – Google’s Third Core Algorithm Update of the Year

December 2020 Core Update

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On December 3, 2020, Google released a broad core algorithm update which it called the “December 2020 Core Update”. As we all know, search engine giant Google changes their algorithms every few months or so, which are referred to as “core updates”. This is the third core update for the year.

Google’s first core update this year was rolled out on January 13, 2020. The next one, the May 2020 core update was rolled out on May 4. The December 2020 Core Update comes seven months after the May core update. So, compared to the general average time between these types of updates, this new December 2020 core update comes after a significant amount of time.

December 2020 Core Update

On 3rd December 2020, Google took to Twitter via the @searchliason account to announce that its December core update began rolling out at around 1pm ET- which is two and a half hours after Google said it would roll out. Google also said that the new update would typically take about one to two weeks to fully roll out.

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Though, as of now, nobody knows exactly what changes the new updates will bring about and how it will affect SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), the immediate response from the SEO community to the announcement of this core update is nervousness and anxiety. Many expressed their dismay through Twitter.


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SEOs and site owners assume the worst when it comes to core updates. However, evaluating the basics of core updates could help overcome some concerns. After a core update rolls out, websites may notice drops or gains in search rankings. Sometimes, these updates are also opportunities for sites to be rewarded for their optimization efforts over the past several months.

For instance, in the May 2020 core update, while many marketers feels that something’s not right with the search engine results pages (SERPs), and many popular and successful brands such as Amazon had witnessed an evident change in the search results. They dominate the top search results for certain queries and social media seems to be dominating for other keywords too.

However, the changes in search rankings are generally a reflection of content relevancy, implicating that if content has gained relevancy since the last update, it will be moved higher up in rankings. If there’s newly published content that didn’t exist at the time of the last update, it has to be reassessed against previously existing content.

Google makes significant, broad changes to their search algorithms and systems to ensure that, overall, it delivers relevant and authoritative content to searchers. Be it the old content that gained relevancy or new content, one thing that’s certain is there will be an evident impact with the core updates as they are designed to produce widely visible effects across search results in all countries and in all languages.

Are you Affected by the New Core Update?

“Though a vast majority of sites will remain unaffected by the new core update, many would get affected with the new major changes. With the help of the daily Visibility Index, you can identify the changes and you may also see data in Google Search Console”, notes software developer SISTRIX. Consider the following points while using the Index:

  • Changes in rankings may not be a direct result of the algorithm on your domain, but a reaction due to changes in a closely related competitor domain.
  • Small domains usually show large percentage changes in the normal course of SERPs updates and Core Update changes may be difficult to spot.
  • There have been many cases where changes have occurred on a website at or around the data of the Core Update. Webmasters should always consider that their site may have been affect by local changes.

Other 2020 Core Updates

The year 2020 witnessed the first broad Google core algorithm update in January. According to mobifilia, volatility analysis shows how the update affected different sectors in terms of volatility such as:

  • Health – a 77% increase – and finance – a 1,833% increase – niches experienced the most noticeable or considerable impact of the core update at the top of the SERPs.
  • Your Money Your Life (YMYL) niches witnessed considerably higher levels of volatility than non YMYL niches.
  • The retail industry did not experience higher rank volatility.
  • The travel niche saw around 24% increase in rank volatility.

However, as it was a broad core update, the January 2020 core update was intended to impact all search results on a worldwide scale. But it was not an update that targeted something specific that webmasters could improve upon like the “Speed Update.”

After the January core update, Google rolled out another broad core update in May. Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan announced the roll-out of the May 2020 Core Update via Twitter on Monday, May 4, 2020. With this update, many niches such as travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society saw the biggest fluctuations with rankings. There was also an unexpected change in local SEO results, but this had started before the core update.

Google’s May 2020 Core Update that began rolling out on May 4, was officially done rolling out on 18th May 2020. Soon after this core update, on May 28, 2020 Google announced a new update to its ranking algorithm called the Google Page Experience update. Set to launch in May 2021, this update is designed to judge web pages based on how users perceive the experience of interacting with the page.

Though not a broad core algorithm, this Page Experience update could be important because, once this update is launched, Google will measure your web pages using a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals to examine how a user would perceive the experience of a specific web page. If Google thinks your website users will have a poor experience on your web pages, then it may not rank those pages as highly as they are now.

Thankfully, as Google has announced this new update well in advance, webmasters and marketers have enough time to prepare their site for the new Google Page Experience update.

In addition to constant algorithmic updates, which will make it difficult to keep up with the latest SEO requirements, businesses need to be prepared for regular changes too. To keep an eye on your rankings and performance, keep tracking your Google Analytics and Google Search Console and take the necessary actions. An experienced Long Island social media marketing agency that stays up to date with such algorithms and core updates can help you with this.