Google’s May 2022 Broad Core Algorithm Update

Date: June 16, 2022

It’s that time again. Google recently released its newest core update to the search algorithm. They announced it with very generic verbiage without any direct input on what exactly was tweaked, which is to be expected. If everyone knew the “secret sauce,” rankings would be incredibly skewed and manipulated – providing the end user’s query with data that may not have been the best answer. It’s hard to have a conversation when there’s no straightforward answer as to what exactly has changed, but depending on your ranking situation, it’s something to be fully aware of. 

How Often Do Updates Like This Happen?

The most recent core update was in November 2021, roughly 6 months ago. This is a normal window of time between updates of this size based on what we’ve seen in the past. The folks over at Seach Engine Land have a handy guide showing the history of major algorithm updates should you want to reference prior changes. Experts say, on average, Google updates its algorithm 500-600 times a year. The bulk of these are very minor tweaks. However, it’s these larger “broad core” updates that generally show significant impact to certain sites. 

How Long Does An Update Take and Is This Update Over?

Updates of this nature generally take about two weeks to fully roll out. Many believe the bulk actions of a core update happen during the first few days after launch but that’s based on varying data collected. Google advised the newest update was officially released on May 25th and was completed on June 9. The update itself is over but tremors (spikes and declines in rankings) can still occur after a release is finalized. Fluctuation can be nerve-wracking but it should be expected during these time periods. 

Who or What Was Impacted?

With every large algorithm update like this, there tends to be winners and losers in regards to keyword ranking, and in turn, organic site traffic. In essence, an update doesn’t penalize you, but it can reward other competitors. Google has not specified a certain percentage of queries or searches that were impacted by this update. 

Sometimes these core updates heavily impact specific industries or fields of expertise. There have been updates in the past that saw big hits to medical and legal (sometimes categorized as “YMYL” or “your money or your life”). Research is still being done but an initial report from Amsive Digital is showing that eCommerce sites were a standout winner with increased visibility. They also have seen some rebounds happening in medical, nutrition, and wellness sites that saw a big drop back during August 2018’s core update (often called the “Medic” update since that was the notable big shift.)

There are many who notice large dips in rankings during an update’s rollout who later see things rebound once the “tremors” after a large update settle. There have been reports that sites lost their featured snippets (when you have a quoted piece of text that directly answers a query). Since featured snippets show at the very top of organic results, they’re commonly a strong driver of overall organic traffic so if you lose one or even a few of those, it can be incredibly significant. 

While on the subject of volatility, there are great resources out there that help monitor the algorithm on a daily basis. Think of it like a weather forecast. Check out Mozcast, Rankranger, SERpmetrics and SEMrush Sensor, to name a few. 

Don’t Panic

So what can you do? There is no real “fix” when updates are rolled out. That said, what you should do is review your content and see if there are things you can improve. Maybe there are relevant pages that haven’t been updated in quite some time. They may have been strong at one point, but there’s a chance that stronger content (in the eyes of Googlebot) has now been rewarded with higher placement in organic search. Your content should always try to display strong E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness). “E-A-T” is referenced multiple times throughout Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines. This is Google’s handbook for the people they hire to manually review how Google search performs. E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor but it’s a strong set of values many in SEO swear by when holistically approaching their site content. 

You should wait about a week or two after a core update wraps to begin taking action. Many who have seen a severe impact in the initial days of a core algorithm release actually rebound by the time things settle down. Once the dust has truly settled and you still see a negative impact, review the targeted keyword queries and test things out. 

  • Did you drop from the top of page 1 to the bottom half? 
  • Maybe you got knocked back onto page 2? 
  • Who is now passing you by in those targeted searches? 

Do a side-by-side comparison with your direct competitors who were rewarded with higher placements. Maybe they have FAQ content you’re missing. Maybe they have a stronger internal link structure to many supporting topic pages you’ve been missing. It’s going to entirely vary depending on your unique situation so there’s no direct “fix.” Make incremental changes to your page (or related linked pages) and keep an eye on Search Console and Analytics in the coming days and weeks. 

In summation, don’t panic. It can be frustrating, but this pushes one to be more engaged with their site content which serves the higher purpose of ensuring a query is matched with the most knowledgeable and up-to-date information possible. The algorithm is an always-evolving, moving target. It’s going to take time and focus to land those crucial keywords to help drive site traffic and conversions.