Search Engine Marketing Industry News & Notes: May 2020 Edition

In the dynamic industry of search engine marketing, changes are frequent, often unexpected, and almost always have an impact on paid search marketing or organic search engine optimization.

Like most digital marketing agencies, we have learned to have an ear on the ground to ensure that we – and our clients – have a solid understanding of these changes as they take place.

During the month of May 2020, there were several updates and industry information published, including:

  • Google’s May 2020 Core Update
  • Paid Search Engine Marketing Resources During COVID-19
  • Google Introduces Core Web Vitals Report in Google Search Console
  • Updated FAQs on Google’s Handling of JavaScript & Links
  • New Reports for Special Announcements in Google Search Console

Our purpose here is to introduce you to the related topics or updates for each of the above products, provide a brief overview of challenges or opportunities for each – and allow you to continue your exploration through linked articles and material.

Google’s May 2020 Core Update

For the second time in 2020, Google has gone on record to announce that a Core Update has been released. The update began on May 4th and took two weeks before the rollout process was completed on May 18th.

Google publishes many algorithmic updates every week, but these “heart changes” appear to be more extensive and important. The May Core Update did not disappoint as the second Core Update in 2020 – unless, of course, your site was on the receiving end of deteriorated organic search results.

In terms of high-level takeaways, here’s what we can confidently share:

  • This was a very big update, shaping organic search results more significantly than the previous Core Update in January of this year. Judging by SERP volatility, MOZ indicates that the May Core Update is the second most impactful update to the “Medic” update in August of 2018.
  • If you are looking to conduct a “before” and “after” analysis, keep in mind that this update required a two-week rollout. Data predating the update is usable through May 3rd, and anything from May 19th onward is suitable for your post-update analysis.
  • As is often the case, community feedback on the update skews negatively as traffic and rankings are compromised. There were noted instances of sites like Pinterest dominating search results, as well as examples of big brands like Amazon and eBay being able to score several first page listings – effectively pushing others out of the most visible page one positions.

Several sites, industry experts and SEO tool providers have done a great job of summarizing their take on this update – so we certainly encourage you to read through the links below:

Paid Search Engine Marketing Resources During COVID-19

Why did COVID-19 / Coronavirus not change? More people are more frequently online, most businesses are reeling – and as a result of staying at home orders, online commerce (despite all its frustrations and challenges) quickly became the primary consumer spending vehicle.

These factors have combined to create countless challenges for paid media managers – but has certainly created opportunities for others, too.

Both Microsoft and Google have made it a point to share insights about the impacts of advertising and the pandemic opportunities:

Google Introduces Core Web Vitals Report in Google Search Console

For those who make frequent use of Google Search Console, the “Speed (Experimental)” reports we had grown accustomed to have now been replaced by a new “Web Vitals” report.

Web Vitals is simply a more mature version of Google’s ability to analyze web page and site speed, performance and usability. In Google’s own words, Web Vitals serves the following purpose:

While many SEO’s (myself included) have spent considerable time over the past two years optimizing for improved page speed and performance, there’s a lot more to unpack when it comes to Web Vitals. While page loading, interactivity and visual stability all contribute to improved user experiences – they still serve as search signals for page experience.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into Web Vitals and related user experience factors, there’s no better place to start than Evaluating page experience for a better web – published on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Updated FAQs on Google’s Handling of JavaScript & Links

For those of you who frequently wonder optimization of JavaScript based sites and web applications – you’re likely already familiar with Martin Splitt, Developer Advocate at Google.

Martin’s Webmaster Conference Lightning Talk is a short but informative review of two important elements in SEO: Links and JavaScript.

New Reports for Special Announcements in Google Search Console

Finally, we wanted to highlight a new opportunity to add structured data to COVID-19 announcements using the SpecialAnnouncement markup.

If COVID-19 has affected your business or website, you may find it necessary to pass on several important details to visitors and customers of your site, including:

  • Announcement of a shelter-in-place directive
  • Closure notice (for example, closing a school or public transportation)
  • Announcement of government benefits (for example, unemployment support, paid leave, or one-time payments)
  • Quarantine guidelines
  • Travel restrictions
  • Notification of a new drive-through testing center
  • Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
  • Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions
  • Disease spread statistics and maps

If so, we highly recommend reviewing another Google Webmaster Central Blog post, New reports for Special Announcements in Search Console.

Search Engine Marketing Industry News & Notes: May 2020 Edition