Core Update December 2020 – Google’s Christmas present?

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.

We will update this blog post regularly over the next few days and publish the updates. If you would like to be notified when we have major news, subscribe to our newsletter.

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:

Littlewoods domain losing a large percentage of visibility during the Dec 2020 Core Update. (07.12)
Littlewoods domain losing a large percentage of visibility during the Dec 2020 Core Update. (08.12)

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.

Lexico, Wiktionary and Dictionary losing heavily during the Dec Core Update

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.

Collins, Britannica and Merriam Webster gaining from the Dec Core Update.

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.

Amazon losses across UK, ES, IT, FR and USA - Dec 2020 Core Update
Amazon losses across UK, ES, IT, FR and USA – Dec 2020 Core Update 11 December 2020

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)

Winners

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)

Google Core Update December 2020: Winners
DomainVI 30.11.VI 07.12.Change
ducksters.com9.2420.85125.7%
songmeanings.com12.7126.13105.6%
babycenter.com3.205.8883.6%
nameberry.com5.329.6380.8%
verywellhealth.com13.0822.8774.8%
newworldencyclopedia.org4.347.4872.3%
mn2s.com2.664.5370.7%
zoominfo.com4.818.1569.6%
cazoo.co.uk4.487.4766.7%
lyricsmode.com5.629.1262.1%
gettingpersonal.co.uk4.377.0060.1%
pons.com3.775.9958.8%
filehorse.com3.285.1858.0%
grammar-monster.com3.555.5356.0%
letras.mus.br5.628.6353.5%
france24.com3.665.5952.7%
seriouseats.com4.336.5852.2%
thestudentroom.co.uk2.653.9850.4%
honestjohn.co.uk5.177.7549.7%
lights.co.uk3.825.7149.6%
dkfindout.com4.676.9649.1%
spiceworks.com3.314.9348.9%
curvissa.co.uk2.924.3248.0%
soccerway.com5.688.4048.0%
songfacts.com60.3188.9347.5%
whoscored.com2.894.2547.0%
golfonline.co.uk2.884.2046.0%
omnicalculator.com3.755.4043.9%
poki.com3.875.5743.8%
couponfollow.com3.124.4743.1%
mindbodygreen.com2.974.2342.3%
capterra.co.uk6.268.8641.5%
liquipedia.net2.623.6940.8%
rateyourmusic.com16.9523.7940.4%
tunebat.com6.288.8140.3%
bicycling.com3.254.5540.3%
heavy-r.com5.697.9840.3%
vetstreet.com4.225.8739.2%
sytner.co.uk3.344.6539.0%
mdpi.com5.808.0438.7%
tv.com2.563.5638.7%
onthisday.com3.024.1838.5%
oprahmag.com10.1914.1038.4%
oxforddictionaries.com3.044.2038.2%
nationsonline.org9.6313.3038.2%
cliffsnotes.com4.506.2137.9%
lyricinterpretations.com3.044.2037.9%
teenvogue.com3.885.3337.4%
caranddriver.com9.1312.5437.3%
stackexchange.com30.2741.4937.1%

Losers

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:

Google Core Update December 2020: Losers
DomainVI 30.11.VI 07.12.Change
tenor.com16.529.34-43.5%
littlewoods.com12.437.16-42.4%
ents24.com13.638.01-41.2%
wish.com17.2810.25-40.7%
fantasticfiction.com13.938.46-39.3%
wikiwand.com22.1113.64-38.3%
lexico.com277.65174.12-37.3%
whosampled.com29.7219.01-36.0%
secondhandsongs.com20.3013.15-35.3%
aliexpress.com34.2623.44-31.6%
eonline.com14.4610.09-30.2%
farfetch.com18.9513.23-30.2%
kiddle.co15.0610.55-29.9%
bookdepository.com10.007.18-28.2%
gumtree.com174.51125.51-28.1%
prettylittlething.com25.1418.13-27.9%
capterra.com10.327.48-27.5%
redbubble.com20.0314.58-27.2%
wiktionary.org356.82261.18-26.8%
wikimedia.org14.4710.59-26.8%
gettyimages.com25.3818.70-26.3%
cheatsheet.com11.808.75-25.9%
smithsonianmag.com24.6018.33-25.5%
amazon.ca10.167.60-25.1%
motors.co.uk44.6833.70-24.6%
songsterr.com10.247.79-23.9%
wikiquote.org24.5618.71-23.8%
cargurus.co.uk12.599.60-23.7%
overclockers.co.uk18.8014.40-23.4%
ldoceonline.com82.2063.30-23.0%
agoda.com24.4018.79-23.0%
nme.com59.8046.42-22.4%
very.co.uk64.6650.32-22.2%
state.gov12.299.57-22.1%
eurocarparts.com17.3713.56-21.9%
newlook.com26.0620.34-21.9%
dailymotion.com73.4557.64-21.5%
digitalspy.com31.4024.65-21.5%
twitch.tv10.408.17-21.5%
wsj.com13.4410.59-21.2%
setlist.fm10.968.66-21.0%
zazzle.co.uk15.6012.42-20.4%
sciencedaily.com10.968.73-20.3%
psychologytoday.com23.8719.02-20.3%
informer.com14.4411.53-20.1%
insider.com29.8723.92-19.9%
songkick.com33.4826.84-19.8%
aljazeera.com13.9411.19-19.7%
missguided.co.uk27.9022.45-19.6%
hotukdeals.com12.9810.45-19.5%

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.

Google Core Update December 2020: UK retail winners (absolute VI values. 07.12)
ebay.co.uk85.58
ebay.com16.54
currys.co.uk8.34
sportsdirect.com6.69
matalan.co.uk5.84
superdrug.com5.57
next.co.uk5.38
houseoffraser.co.uk5.15
smythstoys.com4.77
dunelm.com4.23

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…

Google Core Update December 2020: UK retail losers (absolute VI values. 07.12)
prettylittlething.com-7.005
aliexpress.com-10.816
screwfix.com-10.921
wayfair.co.uk-14.050
very.co.uk-14.340
asos.com-22.579
amazon.com-43.609
argos.co.uk-47.730
gumtree.com-49.005
amazon.co.uk-412.768

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!)

Google Core Update December 2020: UK retail winners (% values. 07.12)
nordstrom.com66.1%
gettingpersonal.co.uk60.1%
findmeagift.co.uk39.6%
normans.co.uk37.5%
levi.com34.6%
monki.com34.0%
blacks.co.uk28.9%
coastfashion.com28.6%
wallis.co.uk27.6%
preloved.co.uk26.0%

A couple of older brands appear in the winners list but there’s no theme to the winners in terms of %.

Google Core Update December 2020: UK retail losers (% values. 07.12)
mandmdirect.com-28.9%
jacamo.co.uk-29.5%
farfetch.com-30.2%
aliexpress.com-31.6%
allsaints.com-32.2%
jdwilliams.co.uk-35.4%
theoutnet.com-36.9%
yoursclothing.co.uk-36.9%
littlewoods.com-42.4%
superdry.com-52.5%

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.

Google Core Update December 2020: News media in UK search 11 Dec)
DomainVI Change (30 Nov to 11 Dec)
www.forbes.com17.65
www.bloomberg.com4.91
www.usatoday.com3.34
irishtimes.com3.07
news.sky.com2.12
people.com2.00
www.skysports.com1.25
standard.co.uk0.02
belfasttelegraph.co.uk-0.34
telegraph.co.uk-0.87
theweek.co.uk-0.98
economist.com-1.00
cnbc.com-1.36
spectator.co.uk-1.46
www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk-1.57
www.washingtonpost.com-2.44
www.dailystar.co.uk-2.44
inews.co.uk-2.49
thetimes.co.uk-2.89
www.eonline.com-5.10
express.co.uk-7.77
nytimes.com-7.80
metro.co.uk-8.50
https://www.bbc.com/news/-8.52
cnn.com-11.87
thesun.co.uk-13.88
mirror.co.uk-13.97
dailymail.co.uk-15.23
independent.co.uk-25.42
theguardian.com-26.52

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.

Related posts
Comments
Avatar John   
8. December 2020, 11:39

Is there a way to react on this update? As my website https://www.itexperience.net lost 40% since 4 december, I’m looking for way to gain or attract more visitors.

Steve Paine Steve Paine   
9. December 2020, 11:59

Google generally says there’s nothing the people need to do. What I can suggest is to look at the lost keywords on your domain and to analyse them. 1) Should I really be ranking for this? 2) Is the content matching what the user is expecting (matching search intention) 3) Is the content as good as the competitors? We have a tutorial on analysing keyword changes here. https://www.sistrix.com/tutorials/ranking-changes/ Good luck.

Avatar CJ   
15. December 2020, 13:01

Scnd Wave comes to Germany right now? In General google might to redefine the brand stategy. Bigger Brand dont build better Pages in every case. This is wrong on so many level. Seems that a lot ob bigger sites uses their popularity. LinkedIn wins again Xing in Visbilty. This dont work in Germany i guess. I guess you can find more in Detail.

Avatar Viki Sangre   
20. December 2020, 21:06

Our client’s Media Outlet/ News website dropped after the update. I expected improvement after rolling out but the stats still same, even declining day by day..

Comments will be closed 30 days after the post was published.