How Google’s January 2020 Core Updates Impact Rankings

Posted on February 28th, 2020 by nms

In the early part of January 2020, the search engine giant began to roll out the Google update to its core search algorithm. Although not as landscape-shifting as previous updates, search engine optimization (SEO) experts still believe the January update could have significant impacts on the industry.

When running SEO campaigns, these changes can influence organic search traffic, potentially reducing search visibility dramatically. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the January 2020 update, with a special emphasis on what it can mean for insurance agency search rankings.

Core Updates: What Changed?

Although they are reluctant to share details about specific changes to their core algorithm, industry analysts indicate that the January 2020 Core Google Update is more substantial than previous incremental updates.

In general, Google updates its algorithm periodically throughout any given calendar year. These updates are made to improve search results quality as well as the Google user experience. One of the updates regards web pages listed in Google’s “Featured Snippet” block on search engine results pages (SERPs). In previous iterations, sites listed in Featured Snippets were again listed in the search results; after the January Core Update, this is no longer the case. Google stated that the idea behind this change was to declutter SERPs, but the move left many SEO professionals wringing their hands.

As with previous updates to the core algorithm, certain categories of websites known as YMYL, or “Your Money or Your Life” were particularly affected. Sites that feature medical and wellness information, personal finance, news, and politics suffered after previous updates, losing coveted top-ranking positions and in some cases dropping off page one of SERPs altogether. After the January Core Update completed its rollout, YMYL sites were again affected – only this time, a significant number of these sites saw ranking improvements. In fact, some industry analysts suggest that many affected sites regained pre-2019 ranking levels, improving search discovery across a very broad and very popular category.

Settling Down After Google Updates

Every time Google makes a change to its algorithm or rolls out a core update, search volatility may fluctuate before settling down. The January Core Update was no exception. Most of the time, big changes in volatility eventually mean nothing; volatility shifts throughout the day, as indicated by SEMrush’s online Sensor monitoring tool. In general, insurance agency SEO professionals do not have to make unusual or comprehensive changes to website content in order to regain lost ranking positions, but monitoring the rises and falls of ranking is a crucial part of any SEO campaign.

Google Offers a Hand to SEO Teams

In 2011, after the legendary Google “Panda” algorithm update was completed, the search engine company published advice for use by SEO professionals. That same advice holds true for the January 2020 Core Update. In essence, SEO teams need to continue to focus on content quality. Google’s tips for evaluating content quality include:

  • Ensuring that content is original and informative.
  • Focusing on comprehensive coverage of a given topic.
  • Including value – in-depth analysis or insight — beyond existing content on a topic.
  • Avoiding “clickbait” titles and headings.
  • Making sure that content is well-written, free of grammatical and spelling errors, and engaging.
  • Avoiding excessive ads on content pages.
  • Taking the steps needed for content to display correctly across all computing devices. both desktop and mobile.

Most importantly, Google encourages SEO teams to implement the E-A-T concept when developing web content. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness:

Expertise — Content should be written by individuals or groups expert in a given topic.

Authoritativeness – Content should cover a given topic thoroughly, providing rich insight that answers any questions a reader might have.

Trustworthiness – Content should include links to and from other sources, particularly those considered trustworthy like news media outlets, professional journals, and industry information resources.

Google will continue to improve its online search capabilities, adding new technologies and functionality to the tool in order to deliver relevant information to users. Algorithm updates may seem like a significant challenge in insurance agency SEO, and in many cases search volatility can be affected by these changes. By focusing on best practices and keeping content at the highest levels of quality, SEO teams can preserve critical search rankings, ensuring great search visibility for their insurance industry clients.