What’s Google’s December 2020 Core Update?

Many webmasters were hoping to close out 2020 without any particular shakeup. Instead Google has chosen to send online a new algorithm update, the third Core Update this year. And as it happens in these cases, websites around the world have felt, some more than others, ranking shocks in SERPs. Here’s what you need to know.

To the delight of all SEO specialists, Google released a new Core Update a few days ago, calling it “December 2020”. The announcement, as usual, was made on Twitter by Google @SearchLiaison. The official profile with which “Big G” for about a year officially communicates its news to SEO fans.

On December 3, a first tweet announced the release of the December 2020 Core Update. Two and a half hours later came the confirmation of the update’s operation.

All according to protocol. Google has not released any particular instructions or specific details about what this update might generate in the complex world of ranking websites on the search engine. Nor on how webmasters should approach yet another major update.

At least not with any specific information. What Google spokesperson Danny Sullivan has stated is that the generic guidelines for the core update (see an excerpt below) are sufficient for any website owner to get a proper picture of the situation.

Periodically Google updates the criteria by which its algorithm (it would be better to use the plural, algorithms) works. The goal is to improve the performance of crawling, indexing and positioning and offer the best answers to the needs of those who search the web.

Google’s algorithms are a complex system of rules designed to retrieve data from its search index to provide the best possible results for specific combinations of keywords. The search engine uses a sequence of algorithms and ranking signals to deliver web pages positioned based on relevance to search queries in Google’s results pages.

Google’s latest updates focus on an analysis of website content taken over by the algorithm’s artificial intelligence (the Rank Brain) and not the human-side algorithmic rules system. This is because the search engine invests so much in conveying the semantic understanding of human search intent to the artificial intelligence of the algorithm.

Usually a core update has noticeable effects on all websites in the world and for all search languages, without any distinction. So much so that the main SEO management tools monitor and analyze any changes in SERPs due to the periodic updates programmed by Google. Reporting them in the search charts on the exact days in which Mountain View announces the introduction of the update.

Facing a sudden collapse of visits due to a worsening of eCommerce in the SERPs might not be the best scenario just before the Christmas holidays. Not to mention the repercussions on media buyers’ forecasts and the entire affiliate marketing industry.

To see your website downgraded in such a delicate period, especially after having made considerable efforts to gain positions in the days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, would be a real cold shower. But there could be some positives as well.

This is the first update after about six months of “silence” on basic updates coming from Google. For someone it could have been the decisive boost to leap forward a few positions, if not even gain the much hoped-for “zero position”.

For the moment, even here in Italy, the feeling is that there have been few upheavals. A few roller-coaster surges, but no one seems to have come out of the December 2020 Core Update with broken bones.

According to SEMRush Sensor data on ranking deviations by product category, the sectors most affected by the December 2020 Core Update are real estate, travel, health, animals, books and literature. To be honest, these categories are quite “sensitive” from a web content point of view in a very busy year like the one we are going through.