Google’s December Core Update: What We Know So Far

December 11, 2020

Kerrie Ashall

Google releases thousands of updates each year, but what makes the 3rd December 2020 Core Update special is that it followed an unusually long time after the last one (which was seven months ago in May), leaving SEO experts waiting in anticipation.

Like other core updates, this one rolled out across the world, independent of language and region, and Google announced the algo update via Twitter, stating that it would take a week or two to be completely rolled out – a standard procedure.

Being so close to Christmas, however, the update has some companies concerned that they stand to take a hit at one of their busiest times of year. With Covid-19 already posing enormous challenges for businesses across the country, Google has faced some criticism for throwing yet another spanner in the works. Barry Schwartz conducted a Twitter poll that showed almost 42% of people felt the update had come at a bad time, and would spell disaster for countless businesses over the festive season.

On the other hand, some have pointed out that the update comes after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so all was not lost. What’s more, some businesses have been eagerly awaiting a fresh update since the fallout from the May update, and the new changes may mean they can survive a particularly rough 2020. Regardless of the direction, many are reporting large fluctuations in organic traffic –up to 60% in some cases.

The many smaller updates recently may have paved the way for the current update. Though it will take some time for the changes to take full effect, it would appear that this update is going to have considerably more impact across all verticals than the one in May, which SEOs felt to be a little weak. It’s early days yet, but here’s what you need to know about the changes, and how to adapt should your business be affected.

The impact depends on your industry

Google claims that there is no silver bullet for recovering from ranking drops due to the updates, because there isn’t really anything to “fix,” but with some effort and patience, there is a lot business owners can do to bounce back.

According to RankRanger’s data, fluctuations more than doubled in Google’s top 20 rankings compared to May’s update, with health, finance, real estate, law and government, and travel being the most affected on desktop, and health, law and government, jobs and education, and pets and animals being most affected on mobile search. Medical, legal or financial sites (so-called YMYL – Your Money Your Life) has been hardest hit with the most volatility in web traffic, but some companies are seeing boosts.

Some businesses will be harder hit than others, some will feel no change and still others may experience dramatic improvements in organic site traffic. The timing of the update may also be more or less significant depending on your niche, and whether December is ordinarily a busy month (in which the update is perfectly timed) or a busy one (in which case the update could cause enormous disruptions).

What to do if the update affects you negatively

Google typically gives generic advice for those caught in the aftershocks of a big update, but this advice is not tailored to your individual business, and poor rankings may not necessarily mean that you’re doing anything wrong. Another factor to consider is that any changes you make to recover may take time to ripple out, sometimes only making an impact after the subsequent update.

As SEO experts, we’re accustomed to the curveballs core updates can throw our way, and we know that part of the game is to keep abreast of changes and continually find creative ways to thrive regardless. Remember that no matter the changes made, Google’s algorithms still reward certain kinds of content. With that in mind, here’s a few tips to help keep your website in check:

  • Always focus on EAT – foster Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness with original content and insightful analysis.
  • Publish content that is comprehensive and truly value-adding, rather than rehashed, obvious material – and publish regularly. You may need to tweak headings and summaries to be more concise and avoid cheap tricks like clickbait titles. It’s always a good idea to ask, is this the kind of quality material you’d excitedly share in your own network?
  • Use clear, trustworthy sources and content written by experts that is easily verifiable.
  • You could also signal trust by prominently showcasing awards and accolades.


As always, make written content error-free and compile it with care – this also means no aggressive and annoying ads or overly salesy language. By making sure your content is as high quality as possible, you can genuinely serve visitors – which is just what the updates are ultimately trying to achieve.

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