Google’s December 2020 Algorithm Core update: All We Know

Let’s just face it 2020 has been nothing but unpredictable. From Covid-19 to working from home, it hasn’t been easy. It is understandable when site owners were looking for some sort of relief from Google’s broad core algorithm update however some people may be disappointed with the outcome. The last broad core update was May 4, 2020, so there was a seven-month gap between updates. Google announced via Twitter that the broad core update had begun on December 3, 2020, which ended in about two weeks.

The announcement received a bit of a mixed response, the timing, in particular, was controversial. Some believed since the holiday season was upon us and the pandemic is at its peak, Google’s update is inconvenient. On the other hand, other users had been eagerly waiting for the new update.

I believe that the timing was fair since most people may have recovered due to the big shopping season (Thanksgiving, Black Friday). It should also be noted that Google’s John Mueller explained in a Search Central Hangout that he was not consulted in the decision about the timing. He thought it was fair enough. He also answered a question about passage-based ranking and if it rolled out with the December update. He said that something like passage-based ranking would not be bundled with something like a broad core update.

Google’s observations from the Front lines

When it comes to broad core updates, Google looks at multiple factors over an extended period of time. They do so much evaluation in between that it can create a blockage if more updates are rolled out frequently. During the evaluations, Google is not looking at particular factors but is trying to understand the site overall. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to isolate factors that affected the site due to the broad core update. Unless the site owner is constantly working on the site, it becomes difficult to understand the full history of the site including problems it faced and the improvements executed.

Aftermath of the update

After the broad core update rolls out, significant movement cannot be observed for the first few days. However, the December update seems to be an exception. Once the update was finished, movement was observed within 24 hours. A number of people were data sharing hourly trending from Google analytics of sites to see impact from the update. One such example is below (GSQi);

Google's December 2020 Algorithm Core

Multiple sites major movement could be observed across sites, surges as well as dropping. After the initial movement a still period could be observed but the movement started again.

Google's December 2020 Algorithm CoreGoogle's December 2020 Algorithm Core

The volatility was unpredictable and concerning for many site owners. A representative of Google explained after a broad core update or algorithm, there are usually smaller tweaks being made hence the surges and drops.

After the initial movements, there came a reverse course in which most sites experienced a major downgrade. It is worth mentioning that a massive amount of sites experienced volatility after the December update however only some were impacted by the reversals.

How were sites impacted?

As mentioned previously, the timing of the update was a bit controversial. Some e-commerce sites did not fare well during the update. Their only consolation is that the update came after the holiday seasons. While some sites faltered others actually gained visibility during the holiday season.

Google’s John Mueller clarified that if a site’s content is similar to multiple other sites on the web, then it is difficult for Google’s algorithms to determine which site should rank. This can lead to volatility over time hence it is extremely important to differentiate as much as you can on your site.

It is worth noting that the volatility rate after the December update was 9.4. There was a sudden increase in Shopping SERPS, which experienced reversal afterward. Moreover, the most affected sectors were as follows;

  • Health
  • Real Estate
  • Law and Government
  • Travel and Finance
  • Jobs and Education
  • Pets and Animal

It can be observed in the subsequent graphs that larger domains so far have been seriously affected. While 1 in 3 domains are experiencing visibility drops are sites with over 10 million visitors per month.

Google's December 2020 Algorithm Core

Google's December 2020 Algorithm Core

One industry that faced the full force of the update was the online games niche. These sites saw some insane movements with the December update due to similar content across multiple sites, the solution as mentioned is to differentiate. There is a point worth remembering, always respect your users. Terrible user experience has been observed across multiple sites impacted by broad core updates. Aggressive, disruptive, and deceptive ads yield a terrible UX for many people. Don’t do this. Google makes you payback.

Furthermore, for sites in the gray area of Google’s algorithms, it is easy to surge and drop during updates. There is a high chance of volatility of movements, there might be a dropping in January while a surge in May. In order to limit volatility, it is ideal to steer clear of the gray area.

Content Should Be Top Priority

Google’s John Mueller also revealed that even if the website itself has issues, a site can be in the top features if it has outstanding content. Google is always looking to unearth the highest quality and most relevant content for each query. It is highly emphasized that site owners should not overlook content.

How to Protect Your Site from Broad Core Updates?

Google it seems has the same washed up answers for your troubles. The Search engine stressed that there is nothing you should do if you notice a drop in your search ranking. It pointed out the rankings do not reflect that there is a problem with your site. However, counteractions are not discouraged.

What to Make of the December Update?

The broad core update caused a lot of ruckus mainly due to the pandemic conditions. We cannot be sure as of now about how much the sites were affected since only a brief time has lapsed. Only time will tell if the volatility of this update will continue to harm sites or it will finally reach a stillness.

About the author

Zainab is a content creator & a passionate blogger. She is a professional tech blogger & an avid reader by soul. She loves to explore topics related to news/technology, particularly content cleanup. In her free time, she enjoys penning down her thoughts with a cup of coffee.

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