SEO News You Can Use: Google’s December 2020 Core Update Is Here

Lesley Marchant
SEO News You Can Use

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It’s not quite the holiday news we were hoping for, but Google has confirmed a core algorithm update is rolling out. Dubbed the December 2020 Core Update, this is the third algorithm update of the year and follows the last update in early May, marking a lengthier period between updates than we’re used to. The unusual timing is likely owing to the pandemic slowing things down. 

A wave of worry that the long wait between updates will make this one especially impactful is rippling through the SEO community, but there’s no way of telling right now. The update started rolling out on Dec 3, and a core algorithm change can take weeks to show effect (for the record, Google said this one should take “one to two weeks”). All we can do now is wait and see. 

Most of the previous updates have caused a serious shake-up and substantial volatility in the rankings, so it’s not surprising that SEOs are in a bit of a panic (the Twitter memes have been off the charts). It can be challenging – not to mention incredibly frustrating – to isolate the specific cause of a rankings drop after an algorithmic update. 

In the initial stages, at least, these core updates are something of an enigma. The only thing we know for sure is that core updates can be extremely broad and tackle several quality issues at once, which doesn’t make pinpointing a single problem any easier. In fact, Google has warned that making adjustments after a rankings drop can often do more harm than good because you might be fixing something that was never broken. 

For the December 2020 Core Update, Google hasn’t given any information we don’t already know, and the advice for a core update is the same as it’s always been. As usual, it all comes down to content relevancy. Trending topics are likely to rise to the top, and newly published content will be reassessed against previous pieces. 

The main takeaways are:

  • A drop in rankings doesn’t necessarily mean a page is “wrong” or needs fixing.
  • There’s nothing much you can do if your site sees a sudden decline in rankings.
  • Focus on offering the best content you possibly can, and you’ll be rewarded.

As is the case with these updates, it’s not all bad news. While some sites will inevitably see a drop on the search engine results pages (SERPs), others will rise in the rankings. If you’re a website owner who’s been working diligently on improving their SEO and content strategy these past few months, you’ll finally see the fruits of your labor. All we can do is hope to be one of the lucky few who get a Christmas miracle. 

More SEO News You Can Use

Yes, Anchor Text is a Google Ranking Factor: And longer anchor text gives web crawlers more context. Both these facts come courtesy of Google’s John Mueller in a recent SEO office-hours live stream. Mueller explained that Google reads and processes all anchor text, and longer, more detailed anchor text enables the search engine to have a better understanding of what a page is about. So, while long anchor text doesn’t directly influence rankings, indirectly, it certainly can. Both these revelations mean anchor text shouldn’t be an afterthought – it’s something that can be leveraged as an SEO tool that gives Google additional insight into what a page is about. Use it wisely!

The Page Experience Update Will Apply Only to Mobile Search: Remember the Page Experience update set for May 2021? Well, it turns out that page experience as a ranking signal will only apply to mobile Search, meaning the effects will be felt in mobile Search results, not desktop.  In keeping with Google’s focus on mobile user experience (UX), this update will leave desktop SERPs unscathed.

Google Maps and Google My Business (GMB) Are Getting Two New Updates: The updates, announced on Google’s Small Business hub, are the latest in a slew of upgrades for Maps and local search. Now, when customers ask a question, verified businesses will be able to reply to messages directly from the Google Maps app via their Business Profile. And, if searchers call a business and don’t get an answer, they’ll be prompted to send a message. The second update gives businesses additional local metrics in GMB, providing more insight into the actual search queries used to find their business and a deeper understanding of how customers discover their Business Profile. 

YouTube Is Sharing More Details About How Its Algorithm Works: YouTube’s Search & Discovery team released a video with a wealth of information about optimizing videos on the platform. The key takeaways? Inactive subscribers don’t affect rankings; changing titles and thumbnails can make a substantial difference; the two most important YouTube ranking factors are relevance and performance. Another thing to keep in mind is that YouTube’s recommendation system doesn’t “push” videos out – it “pulls” them in and ranks them based on what a user is most likely to watch. There’s a whole lot more where this came from in the full video, so be sure to check it out.

Google Has Busted Some Myths About Crawl Budget: Of all the SEO terms, crawl budget – the number of a website’s pages Googlebot crawls and indexes within a specific timeframe – has to be one of the most misunderstood. Google has decided to clear a few things up in a handy help document. Among useful info regarding best practices and monitoring, the doc also includes a section about crawl budget myths. Keep in mind that crawling is not a ranking factor, small sites are crawled as often as big sites and compressing sitemaps won’t increase your crawl budget.

Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.

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