Google's May 2020 Core Update: Winners, Winnerers, Winlosers, and Why It's All Probably Crap

On May 4, Google announced that they were rolling out a new Core Update. By May 7, it appeared that the dust had mostly settled. Here’s an 11-day view from MozCast:

We measured relatively high volatility from May 4-6, with a peak of 112.6° on May 5. Note that the 30-day average temperature prior to May 4 was historically very high (89.3°).

How does this compare to previous Core Updates? With the caveat that recent temperatures have been well above historical averages, the May 2020 Core Update was our second-hottest Core Update so far, coming in just below the August 2018 “Medic” update.

Who “won” the May Core Update?

It’s common to report winners and losers after a major update (and I’ve done it myself), but for a while now I’ve been concerned that these analyses only capture a small window of time. Whenever we compare two fixed points in time, we’re ignoring the natural volatility of search rankings and the inherent differences between keywords.

This time around, I’d like to take a hard look at the pitfalls. I’m going to focus on winners. The table below shows the 1-day winners (May 5) by total rankings in the 10,000-keyword MozCast tracking set. I’ve only included subdomains with at least 25 rankings on May 4:

Putting aside the usual statistical suspects (small sample sizes for some keywords, the unique pros and cons of our data set, etc.), what’s the problem with this analysis? Sure, there are different ways to report the “%…

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