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Peak Ace on Air #26: Google Core December 2020 Update

This episode came as a little bit of a surprise to everyone. As Dominique wasn’t able to give her presentation on content marketing as scheduled, Bastian whipped up an episode based on the new Google Core update. This update came right in the middle of the most important shopping season of the year (and in 2020, when e-commerce has been more crucial than ever).

Bastian touched on a few different points in his analysis of the update – here’s our summary of the episode.

Sistrix

The SEO tool company Sistrix shed some light on the update by explaining what exactly was updated and how you can find out how you can find out how the update affects you (by checking fluctuations in your site’s visibility.)

Like most SEO tools, Sistrix has an update radar to measure the volatility of the Google updates. From the data, it is easy to see if the update means you need to re-optimise your site: if your visibility goes up, your website is performing well according to Google’s updated ranking guidelines. If your visibility has dropped – you have edits to make.

Our episode on the Google Core Update came as something of a “breaking news” piece, so we have yet to see where all the chips will fall. However, it’s already clear that a certain group of sites are expected to be affected: dictionaries and encyclopedias. Bastian already brought this up in the last Peak Ace on Air episode, as Google had changed their Search Quality Rater Guidelines in this direction.

Search Engine Land in turn made a comparison post about what different SEO tools and data providers have picked up from the changes influenced by the update. They also did a little recap of all the previous major updates from the past year or so.

Also, according to SEO Südwest, you may have seen some visibility changes even prior to the official announcement.

Next in line was PathInteractive and their list of 1000+ winners and losers of the update. An US-focused listing.

In general, if Google believes that one factor is more important for ranking the site than another, then so be it. There is not much we as website owners have to say about it, but technically, all the changes should be targeted towards offering the best possible user experience.

Things which have an impact on user experience like the E-A-T model or fast loading sites or UX in general, will continue to be as important in ranking the site as ever. Google doesn’t want to rank the site with the best SEO, but the one which both offers the best user experience and answer to their question.

Search Engine Round Table also threw their two cents into the discussion by interviewing John Mueller from Google about how the update is not bundled with the passage indexing update, which is not even live yet.

Bastian also went through some frequently asked questions about Google’s Core Web Vitals on their Webmasters Page. What was interesting was that according to Google, using page experience as a ranking criterion will only apply to mobile search. That technically means that optimisation work should be centered on mobile, but on the other hand, we can’t forget our desktop optimisations either.

Another interesting frequently asked question was about what site owners can expect to happen if they don’t hit Core Web Vitals performance metrics. Google’s answer was rather vague, but in our opinion, it won’t be too disastrous to fall slightly below the threshold numbers. Major issues, like seriously slow mobile sites, will of course can have an impact. But we don’t think there is a need to overly obsess over the numbers.

To finish off the episode, Bastian introduced a couple of tools and articles he finds really interesting:

Addy Osmani, a software engineer from Google, showed in Twitter a comparison tool he had built, for comparing site performance across domains. It’s an interesting find, so do check it out.

Bastian also recommended reading an article by Tammy Everts from SpeedCurve about cumulative layout shifts: what do they measure and how do they work? So if you’re interested in learning more about CLS, head over to the SpeedCurve site.

And that’s a wrap on our penultimate episode of Peak Ace on Air in 2020! Our next installment is a Christmas special, featuring three fantastic guests: Arnoud Hellemans, Nick Wilsdon and our own Head of PPC, Julia Riml.

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