Nobody expected another Core Update in 2020, but shortly before the end of the year, Google conjured up it’s third Core Update of the year. Will it be an early Christmas present? We have analysed data during the week and you’ll find it below in this article.
Update: A summary of the Dec Core Update can be found here.
At the beginning of May 2020, almost exactly seven months ago, Google activated the last major core update – a long time for SEO’s to wait for an update. Google announced the update via Twitter as usual.
A few hours later, Google confirmed that the update was rolling out to data-centres around the world. This should take between one and two weeks for it to be fully played-out.
We have seen the first shifts in the search results since Friday afternoon, central Europe time. These first reactions are viewable in the daily SISTRIX data from Saturday (December 5th).
If you don’t have a SISTRIX account to view the detailed changes for all domains, our 14-day test account is free, and without any commitments.
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How do I know if I’m affected by the Dec 2020 Core Update?
By using the daily Visibility Index in SISTRIX, domains affected by a core update can be clearly identified. While the visibility of the domain may be similar over most days, a core update from Google introduces a noticeable change:
As in the Littlewoods (online retail, competing with Argos and Amazon in the UK) example here, domains can either lose or gain visibility. With core updates, the available visibility is redistributed, so there are always winners and losers.
We have set a pin showing the first day of movements from the update.
Expected – dictionaries and encyclopedias lose
In mid-October, Google updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines. In these guidelines, Google sets out its view of ideal search results. The biggest update in October was how Google sees dictionaries and lexicons.
According to Google, in a section titled “Rating Dictionary and Encyclopedia Results for Different Queries”, these no longer meet the user’s intention in all cases; it depends on the respective context. With this core update you can see the effects very directly: many dictionaries are among the big losers.
Three dictionary-related domains have gained. This could be a reaction, or ‘backfill’ to the space left by the three domains above. The gains are not as pronounced as the losses. It will be interesting to track the movement of these after the Core Update has been rolled out.
The flattening of the curves there indicated that the effects of the Core Update are tailing off for these domains.
Core Update winners and losers – visibility of many sectors is re-shuffled
Latest update: 11.12.2020 08:45 CET
The chances of all domains in a particular sector either losing or winning together is unlikely but the social media sector has seen a lot of positive movements: YouTube (+116), Facebook (+76), Twitter (+70), Instagram (+41) and LinkedIn (+68.) Only Pinterest is in the negative (-36.)
Detailed data for UK retail has been included below but a mention is needed of the biggest loss in terms of absolute value.
A significant absolute loss has been seen at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in the UK and this is repeated across a lot of countries.
The absolute losses are extremely high for what is a top-5 most-visible domain in search. In the UK, Amazon.co.uk lost over 21% of visibility. (30.11 to 11.12)
You can query up-to-date visibility data directly for each domain in SISTRIX. The following table lists a selection of large domains that have gained significantly in visibility in UK since the Core Update. (last update 07.12)
|Domain||VI 30.11.||VI 07.12.||Change|
Where there are winners, there must be losers. Core updates only rearrange visibility, and do not change the total available visibility. The following selection of large domains lost significant visibility in UK during the core update so far:
|Domain||VI 30.11.||VI 07.12.||Change|
UK retail winners and losers
As we enter the most important shopping period before Christmas, in a year where online sales have sky-rocketed, it’s interesting to see what’s happening to a couple of the biggest players in the sector, one that we tracked closely during 2020. The lists below are based on the 250 domains we used for that study.
Interesting in the winners is the fact that all but Ebay are multichannel retailers. One could argue that even Ebay has a ‘bricks and mortar’ or local element to it.
The losers, on the other hand…
7 out of 10 of the biggest losers in terms of absolute visibility in Google search, are online-only retailers. The value of the Amazon losses, at over 450 VI points, are very high indeed.
The percentage changes are the ones that are going to make SEOs laugh or cry (or both!)
A couple of older brands appear in the winners list but there’s no theme to the winners in terms of %.
Again, in the losers list a spread of UK retail domains.
In summary it looks like Amazon are the big loser in UK retail. The core update has not yet finished rolling out and with Gumtree (owned by Ebay) also losing, there will be more space for others.
News Media domains in the UK
The table below shows the movements of 30 news media domains in UK search.
|Domain||VI Change (30 Nov to 11 Dec)|
Large VI changes are seen on most of the classic ‘newspaper’ brands and there is an overall net loss from this list (128 VI points between 30 Nov and 11 Dec.) Forbes has benefited well from the changes. It must not be forgotten that the gain at forbes.com could be a result of indirect changes based on movements of other domains but there could also be a relationship to movements in the dictionary sector.