Current State of SEO in May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected our livelihoods, but the way people search. We’ve seen many changes in Google since March, including a natural shift in rankings along with a huge Google core algorithm update. We’ll take you through the current SEO landscape and explain what it means for your business.

Traffic and Rankings Decline

The fact of the matter is, organic traffic and rankings have declined during this time based on what vertical your business is in. Ecommerce, health and wellness, recipe, and publisher sites are all seeing an uptick right now due to demand. Meanwhile, other less in-demand industries can be experiencing decreases across the board. 

Overall, volatility has been a huge theme across all verticals. The SEO community has noticed that this usually happens when there’s a major change in user behavior. Google’s algorithm adapts to that change naturally. There doesn’t always have to be a major core update for Google’s algorithm to change. In fact, it changes everyday. 

Because there has been a sudden increase in a specific topic (COVID-19) in search, Google tends to reward newer content with higher rankings and will push static content down in the SERPs (search engine result pages). This is why it is more important than ever to keep users –and Google – updated with new content regularly. It doesn’t have to be about COVID-19; it just has to be informative and of high quality. And high-quality content should convey your expertise in the industry, your authority on the topic, and your trustworthiness as a site and business.   

May Algorithm Update

As always, Google isn’t forthcoming with what their core algorithm update means for us. On May 4th, Google started to roll out this major update to their algorithm – and because it’s a “core” update, its effects are widespread. 

At first analysis, it appears that all verticals were affected to some degree, but those with the most changes (after the update) are travel, real estate, health, pets and animals, people and society. 

Besides specific verticals having been affected, Google is also penalizing thin content that was only doing well before due to support from backlinks and internal links as well as other external factors. Aggregators and Directories are seeing a surge since the update, and Local Search in general has been in major flux. The May Google core update didn’t necessarily target local search, but we have since then seen major flux in local rankings.

What This Means

One of the main recommendations we always hear in the SEO community is to just wait it out. This can be hard at times, but during a time of major rankings flux and SERP volatility, it’s a good idea to let the dust settle a bit before making any major changes. This usually takes between one-to-two weeks. 

With that said, it’s always a good idea to keep churning out fresh, relevant content for your website and various other media channels. When doing this, it’s important to also look back on older content you have and update it to make sure it continues to be relevant. Google values high-quality, relevant content over anything else, and strives to always give their users the best information possible. 

A cross-channel approach is also important in order to bring in users from a variety of sources. This will be extra helpful if your organic traffic is hit by changes, but your paid or social channels remain strong in those times.