What You Need to Know About Google's Dec 2020 Core Algorithm Update

Posted: in Pulse on the Industry , SEO and Content Marketing

Google announced it is rolling out a new core update, the December 2020 core update. This is the third core update of the 2020 year, the first one was the January 2020 core update and the second one was May 2020 core update.

Historically, Google has released a core Google algorithm update every few months or so. It has been just about seven months since the May 2020 core update, which took place on May 4, 2020. So this one took a lot longer than previous updates to roll out.


Google's previous discussion of Core Algorithm Updates shows a number of areas that Google has considered in the majority of its 2020 updates, which we expect are related to this newest update. Those considerations include:  

Content and quality questions

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise questions

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and production questions

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Whenever Google updates its search ranking algorithms, it means that your site can do better or worse in the search results. Knowing when Google makes these updates gives us something to point to in order to understand if it was something you changed on your web site or something Google changed with its ranking algorithm. 

Update: Data providers on the December 2020 core update

As reported by Search Engine Land

RankRanger. The folks from RankRanger said that this December 2020 update was a “major one,” telling us it was that while the May 2020 update was big, the “December update showed even more changes than the May update in some areas, especially in the top three results.”

Here is how the December update compared to the May update:

The top twenty positions in Google that RankRanger tracks, the fluctuations more than doubled in comparison to the May update.

If you look at the data across industry, you will see fairly even fluctuations, with slightly lower levels of fluctuation in the top three and top five results in the travel niche, according to RankRanger’s data.

SEMRush. Yulia Ibragimova, Olga Andrienko and the SEMRush team prepared a lot of data for us on this update. SEMRush said that this update was mostly felt on Friday, December 4th. Desktop search changes were most felt in the health, real estate, travel, finance, law and government and on mobile search health, law and government, jobs and education, pets & animals, real estate. The SEMRush sensor tracking tool is showing a score of 9.4 on Friday December 4th, the May 2020 core update was also scored that by SEMRush but the January update was closer to 8.

Here is the SEMRush volatility by category:

SEMRush also shared the winners and losers of this update. The winners were,,,,,,, and The losers were,,,,,,,, and

Searchmetrics. Marcus Tober from Searchmetrics told us “as Google announced, it’s clear that this Core Update is still rolling out. However, we can already see some clear shifts in rankings in typical areas related to E-A-T and content – music, health, finance, news, and ecommerce. Interesting is that some winners and losers from the last Core Update in May have gained or lost visibility, but only a few of them. Spotify and Twitch, who suffered major losses with the last update, have so far not yet shown signs of recovering. But it could be that Google is carefully releasing the update in multiple iterations to test the results. Or it also might be the case that the impact of the update is less than other updates with respect to the holiday season. In 1 or 2 weeks we will know more.”

Searchmetrics published some data on its web site as well, including comparing decrease and increase in rankings in May 2020 to December 2020:

Searchmetrics also published its own winners and losers. The early winners are,,,,,,,,, and The early losers are,,,,,,,, and

Sistrix. Sistrix also published some data on this update where Johannes Beus, the CEO of Sistrix, asked if this was an early Christmas present from Google. The company said it has 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).

The data from this company showed that dictionaries and encyclopedias saw large losses here. Why? The company said it comes as no surprise because of the new quality raters guidelines specifically called them out in the last update.

This company also published its winners and losers. The winners were,,,,,,, and The losers were,,,,,,, and

High Level Marketing will continue to monitor the rollout of this core algorithm update. 

Michael Cipielewski