A summary of the #LearnSEO Twitter chat where Marie discusses the early effects of the Google May core update.

Note: This is not MHC’s official blog post on the May core update. You can find that here: The May 2022 Core Update


About Marie Haynes

marie haynes in black and white

Marie is the founder of MHC, a digital marketing agency that specializes in understanding and improving website quality in Google’s eyes. MHC is known for their work on improving E-A-T and all other aspects of site quality.

What does a core update hit look like?

We tend to see declines that happen strongest on the day the update was announced. Traffic often continues on a decline after that.

In many cases, we’ll see a decline and then traffic settles into a “new normal” level.

Brandon Stallo shared this image of a site seeing declines with the unusual, unannounced May 16-18 update, followed by further declines on May 25, 2022 when the core update launched.

In our early analysis so far, we have seen several sites that have a similar pattern – a big change starting May 16-18 and another big change (not always in the same direction) following the May 25 core update.

The majority, if not all, of the sites that follow this pattern are E-Commerce sites or affiliate sites. While Google has not confirmed this, it wouldn’t surprise us if May 16-18 was related to product reviews.

Many sites that were impacted by the core update did not see May 16-18 changes.

We’ve written a lot about core update hits. You can read more here in our article on 100 things to know about Google updates.

What niches or verticals were affected by this update?

In our very early analysis so far, most of the sites that are affected are either E-Commerce, or in some way YMYL. Several sites with health information were affected.

Alexander Vasyov reported that his two year old informational website, with no link building done to it was hit. He said, “Been growing steadily (up to 125k visitors per month). Have never been hit by previous updates. No idea whatsoever why the website got hit so hard. No technical issues (GSC is green for Page Experience, CWV, etc.).”

We should probably point out here that if you were hit by Google’s core update, the problem is not likely to be connected to your Core Web Vital scores. 

Eral Kadrija said, No YMYL content, all information written by a native expert (310+ posts, 10 month old site and a normal back link profile. Lost 70% of the traffic last night. (May 31).

He says his site initially saw 50-70% increases in the first week of the update and suddenly was hit. It’s not unusual to see turbulence while a core update rolls out, but wild shifts like this are not in the norm in our experience.

John Bentley said, “International education- (TEFL – teaching English as a foreign language). We saw some modest gains before and after May 25, including some changes in snippets. Most leaders in the field (including us) seem to have consolidated their hold on top keywords.

What happened with featured snippets during the May core update?

It’s not unusual for a site to lose featured snippet rankings if they also have lost organic ranking positions. With this update many people are reporting losing all of their featured snippets but not losing other rankings. That’s a bit strange and makes us wonder if perhaps Google has raised the bar in terms of  site and content quality for them to show you in a featured snippet. 

As featured snippet answers are shown prominently, and often used for voice search answers, it is important that they are trustworthy and accurate.

Here is a Google help forum post describing this issue:

As Sukhjit Matharu commented, “We know that fluctuations in featured snippets can happen with a core update but this one seems very intriguing!”

Some, like Alex reported that this also happened to them in the November core update but on a smaller scale. Alex said, “As far as I know, no site that lost featured snippets back then has gotten them back yet.” 

Analyzing featured snippet losses may be challenging because not all of the rank tracking tools report on featured snippets accurately. As Holly Stansbery Shaheen said, “Something definitely changed, as our rank tracking tool was no longer recognizing them as featured snippets briefly which usually indicates some kind of formatting update.”

What other causes are there for losses in Google organic traffic?

There are many reasons for traffic to drop. If you are spot checking keyword rankings, not every drop in rankings is going to be due to the update. It’s important to keep in mind that in the US it was a holiday weekend. Holiday weekends cause changes in user search behaviour which can lead to SERP changes and traffic changes.

If you’ve recently made changes to your site, look to those first as a possible cause for your losses.

This was a little embarrassing!

This article is a little dated now as we wrote it in 2014, but here are many other possible reasons for a site’s organic traffic to decline.

What theories do we have so far on what Google changed with the May core update?

This early into the rollout, all we can do is speculate however, as we’ll share at the end of this section, Google has given us very specific advice when it comes to recovering from core update hits.

Several people wondered whether sites with “domain authority” (a Moz metric to approximate PageRank) seemed to be outranking more relevant pages. I’m not sure if I agree that this is what is happening. 

L.E. McArthur thinks this was a “further shift towards brands and authority.” She said, “I noticed one of my large sites, (an authority in its space), has seen a nice lift. Everything is up EXCEPT one of the five primary categories has seen ranking declines. That category is highly relevant, aged, and intertwined with the rest of the content. But perhaps the problem is that it’s considered YMYL. It touches on psychology and health a little more than the rest of the site.”

We think she has hit the nail on the head when explaining why so many sites are no longer allowed in featured snippet ranking positions:

“And I think they may be more rigorous on these points for FS because those results are published on Google proper. They don’t want to risk showing snippets from sites that haven’t crossed their invisible trust line, because it makes them look bad, even worse than poor results.”

Ultimately though, Google has already told us what we should be focusing on when it comes to core updates.

Content and E-A-T.

Google says to focus on offering the best content you can as this is what their algorithms seek to reward.

They follow this paragraph by listing 20 questions you can use to evaluate your content. Here are the first three.

They also tell us to get to know the quality rater guidelines and E-A-T. “Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.”

We will be digging in much deeper to further analyze the May core update. You can stay up to date in our newsletter. If you’re a paid subscriber to our newsletter you’ll get loads of Marie’s theories and insight that we are not ready to publish publicly. 

We will also be publishing a more thorough investigation on our site within the next few weeks. You can follow Marie on Twitter to get updated on when this goes live.

What are you seeing with the May 2022 core update? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share.