January 11, 2021

Reviewing Google’s December 2020 Core Update

Google Core Update

In early December, Google underwent its most recent core update to its algorithm. The previous core update was in May 2020, meaning this one covered a seven-month gap. Before that, there had been a January 2020 update and one in September 2019. The shorter gaps between updates are more common, making the seven-month gap noteworthy.

It Was Expected to Be Large

Even before the update began rolling out, experts knew that it was going to be a significant one. As a core update, the changes affected everyone globally. To put the size of the update in perspective, RankRanger compared it to the May 2020 update. Specifically, RankRanger examined the fluctuations in the top positions. It found that the December 2020 update had greater rank volatility than the May 2020 update for the top three, top 10, and top 20 results. Notably, the top 20 positions fluctuated more than twice as much.

The Timing

While some of the past updates, like the one from May 2020, required weeks to roll out, most of the changes in the December 2020 core update were completed within days. The update began its rollout on Thursday, Dec. 3, at about 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The biggest changes came on Dec. 3 and 4, although some fluctuations continued after that.

Many sources that tracked the update said that while the changes were felt on both Dec. 3 and 4, they were felt to a greater extent on the later date. SEMRush is one of the sources with data backing this up.

The Most Affected Categories

SEMRush also noted which categories experienced the greatest fluctuations due to the changes. For searches on desktops, the biggest changes were in government, law, finance, travel, health, and real estate. For mobile, they were in government, law, real estate, pets and animals, and jobs and education.

Overall, the most winning domains were within the categories of business and industrial, internet and telecom, beauty and fitness, arts and entertainment, and online communities. The domains that made up the largest percentages of those with the greatest drops were in the categories of online communities, shopping, and news.

SEMRush also examined which websites were the most affected based on their domain size. A third of the domains negatively affected are those with more than 10 million monthly visitors. Nearly half of the largest gains and drops were from domains with more than a million visitors per month.

Many Websites Benefited

Websites like Moz that analyzed which websites benefited the most from the update have found that many experienced improvements. It is also important to be cautious when declaring which websites had the best gains from the latest core update. The changes from these updates typically continue for several weeks after implementation.

According to Moz, the biggest winner, www.verywellhealth.com, saw a gain of 207% after one day and 210% after seven days. Most other “winners” had smaller gains, with www.creditkarma.com having a 7-day gain of 186%, www.cashnetusa.com having 143%, and www.refinery29.com having 110%. Among large websites, apps.apple.com saw the best gains, with 74%, followed by www.ebay.com with 28%.

Google’s Suggestions for Those Negatively Impacted

In the past, Google has offered suggestions for websites negatively impacted by core updates. These apply to the December 2020 update, as well. The most important thing to remember is that Google says there is nothing to do or fix. Instead, Google typically suggests focusing on ensuring your content offers original information and is valuable.

Remember that if you were negatively affected, you are unlikely to see dramatic changes until the next core update. You may, however, experience some recovery before then.


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