Google began rolling out the December 2020 core algorithm update on 3 December, although the impact was mostly felt on 4 December. Google has advised that it may take a couple of weeks to fully roll out. Previous advice from Google was that there is nothing to fix if you see a decline in rankings after a core update and they seem to be sticking to that advice again now. However. they have provided some overall guidance for what to focus on with your website content.

Google reiterated there is often nothing to fix on your site after these core updates. “We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.” Google added, “There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update.”

What has changed?

The big question is what has changed? What can I do to make my site rank better in Google after a core update? Google said what has changed is how its systems assess content overall. Google gave this example on top movie ratings:

“One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realise they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.”

What can I do?

The latest advice from Google is not much different to advice it gave in 2011 regarding the Panda algorithm: “We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.”

Google offers the following list of questions to consider when evaluating your content:

General

  • 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-recognised 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?

Comparative questions

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Search quality raters guidelines and EAT

Read the search quality raters guidelines and focus on the EAT sections. EAT is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Google has said “Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.”