Google Core Update January 2020 – First Data and Analysis

This week saw Google roll-out the first big Core Update of the year into the SERP-wilderness. Early reactions can be seen in the rankings. In this article you’ll learn everything about the Google January 2020 Core Update, the winners and the losers.

Google has been officially confirming updates to the Google core algorithm for a few years now. Recently it has even begun to forewarn of updates, and on Monday evening the official Twitter account @searchlisaon wrote:

A short time later, a further Tweet confirmed that the roll-out was beginning. As always, it takes a while until changes in search results are measurable. Through the daily Visibility Index data the the Toolbox we detected the first, small changes and then on Thursday the much more visible movements.

What is a Google Core Update?

Google has a long history of core updates. In the last year Google has transitioned from individual names to a simple “Core Update” naming system. While Google implements hundreds, if not thousands of small changes every year, the Core Updates are the ones that affect the organic rankings of many websites.

Unfortunately Google only offers very general information that is of little help in understanding the background and reasons for the Core Updates. Apart from the (naturally correct) “create website content that users love”, the advice from Google to use the Search Quality Raters Guidelines is the most solid.

How big are the changes?

We assume that Google is adjusting its trust in entire domains based on machine learning for these Core Updates. The more trust and credibility a domain has from its sector, the bigger the potential change when Google adjust this value internally. One can see it well in the health and finance sectors, which, since the start of the Core Update process have seen changes that are proportionally greater than others. graph showing core update gains

With the last Core Update, Google widened the circle of affected domains and the trend continues. In the daily Visibility Index data for mobile search results, you’ll see the first reactions from the 15th to the 16th of January.

Which domains have won?

Due to the domain-wide recalculation of Google trust, there are both winners and losers from core updates. Either all the content ranks better than before or the domain is kicked back a few positions. Here are some example winners so far, as a table:

Google Core Update Jan 2020 winners
DomainVI 09.01.VI 17.01.Change

Besides the expected movements in the health sector (have I already told you that I’ve heard rumors that Google is planning something in this area?) there are a range of sectors and content types.

Which domains have lost?

Where there are winners, there have to be Visibility Index losers. The table below shows examples of domains that have lost considerable Google visibility in the UK.

Google Core Update Jan 2020 losers
DomainVI 09.01.VI 17.01.Change

There are two ‘your money, your life‘ domains in the list but there are also 4 examples from the car buyers sector. Could this also have something to do with the amount of money-related information on the site? Pricing, finance, insurance, for example? A computerised, data-based quality evaluation is behind the changes, and that could be different to a human-level evaluation.


Google remains on the same path with this core update: Domains that relate to YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) topics have been re-evaluated by the search algorithm and gain or lose visibility as a whole. Domains that have previously been affected by such updates are more likely to be affected again. The absolute fluctuations appear to be decreasing with each update – Google is now becoming more certain of its assessment and does not deviate as much from the previous assessment.

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