Starting off 2020 with a Google Core Update


Every year, January seems to drag on and on, doesn’t it? Just when we thought it would never end, Google had to go and throw another core update into the mix. They creatively named this update the “January 2020 Core Update.”

Now that we are safely into February, I will back up. Google core updates are not always bad. In fact, as a user, it’s what I long for… I type in what I’m looking for and the most relevant result is right at the top of the list, saving me time and frustration. However, as an SEO specialist, these updates can throw a major wrench into our organic search results and sometimes dig us a hole back to square 1.

What is a Google Core Update?

Every day Google releases at least one update designed to improve search results. Some small, some large. If it is a small update, we may never notice what is different. However, if Google releases a major update (think Speed Update or Mobilegeddon) we are thankfully given a bit of a heads up to prepare our websites for that fateful day. Then, there are some updates that fall in the middle of these minor and major updates – that’s where Google core updates come in.

Google core updates are broad changes to search algorithms and systems and how they assess content overall. The ultimate goal of core updates is to bring relevant content to searchers. Some sites will notice drops in organic rankings while others will receive a pleasant surprise.

What did the January 2020 Core Update Change?

While Google doesn’t release information on the specific details of core updates and explains that these updates do not target specific categories, the industry has noticed the most notable ranking shifts in the YMYL category (Your Money, Your Life). This would include categories like travel, retail, finance, health, sports & news, and arts & entertainment. An update like this will happen multiple times this year and there is no way to know what business categories will see the next major shift.

From what we can tell, overall this was a very broad update. It did not include new SERP features or new ranking factors. Essentially this update was a reassessment to determine which sites had more relevant and informative content than others and gave those sites a boost. I’m sure we will see many updates very similar to this one in the coming months.

How Do I Know if my Website was Affected by a Google Core Update?

The simple answer is…you won’t know. Organic rankings are constantly shifting multiple times a day. If you did see a noticeable change between January 13th – 16th of this year, then it could be directly related to this update, but there is no way to know for certain.

“Fixing” your Website After a Major Shift in Organic Ranking

I put “fixing” in quotations because there is really no duct tape and WD40 solution. There are multiple ways to help your website improve in organic ranking regardless of a Google core update. What Google has told us, and Top Floor will recommend time and time again, is to focus on content. If your content is not what your prospects and customers are looking for there is no way Google will see it as valuable either.

Preparing for the Next Core Update

Building your content can be difficult. It is tricky to know exactly what information your customers are searching for before contacting your business. At Top Floor, we use a number of tools to help us determine what keywords are being searched by your audience, FAQs that are being asked, and what information works well together. This helps us to provide content guides to help our clients deliver the best information to your customers.

If you have any questions about SEO and your content strategy, we’re here to help. Let’s chat!