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January 2020 core update guide

January 2020 Core Update: All You Need to Know (Plus Tips on How to Survive It)

On January 13, Google announced a core algorithm update called the January 2020 Core Update.

Immediately, site owners took to social media to express their dismay on (yet another) major change that could affect the years of hard work they’d put into reaching a top spot on Google’s SERPs.

Some posted despairing memes. Others begged Google “not to be cruel.” Yet others worried how their keyword rankings would be affected as the new update rolled in.


So, what is the January 2020 Core Update?

Should you be worried about it? Most importantly, what changes should you make to your site so you don’t lose your Google rankings?

Let’s explore this massive update in today’s brand new blog. 👇

Should you be worried about @Google's January Core Update? 🤔 What should you do to maintain your rankings? 📈 Find out in this new guide by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

January 2020 Core Update: All You Need to Know (Plus Tips on How to Survive It) – Table of Contents

January 2020 Core Update, Explained

Experts and Content Creators Speak Up about the January 2020 Core Update

The Top Sites Impacted by the January 2020 Core Update

How to Optimize Your Site to Survive the January 2020 Core Update

5 Aspects of Content That Ranks Well on Google

1. Originality
2. Comprehensiveness
3. Expertise
4. User-Friendly and Trustworthy Presentation
5. User Value

5 Tips to Update Your Content and Continue Ranking Well Despite Major Google Updates

1. Write Content You Can’t Find Elsewhere
2. Improve Content Found on High-Ranking Sites for Your Keyword
3. Proofread to Perfection
4. Step into Your Audience’s Shoes
5. Forget Keywords

Moving Forward after the January 2020 Core Update

January 2020 core update

January 2020 Core Update, Explained

Google’s number one goal is to provide value to users. Because of this, it has made thousands of changes per year in recent years.

However, not all of these changes are noticeable. Most of them are tiny tweaks.

The January 2020 Core Update is different. According to Google, this update will have more noticeable and actionable effects for content producers and webmasters.

Google Webmaster Central blog

source: Google Webmaster Central Blog

The January 2020 Core Update is different. 🤯 According to Google, this update will have more noticeable and actionable effects for content producers and webmasters. Click To Tweet

What it boils down to is Google making a brand-new list of the top sites with the most value in 2020.

If your site takes a hit and falls in the SERPs, it’s not because it’s a bad site. It’s simply because users are changing. There are a ton of new sites online. And there are sites which have been online for some time, but whose value was never fully discovered.

SEJ - core update advice

Source: Search Engine Journal

Overall, the January 2020 Core Update is going to shake up the SEO world. Let’s look at what webmasters and content creators have to say about it.

Experts and Content Creators Speak Up about the January 2020 Core Update

Users reacted differently when the news of the January 2020 Core Update was released. Some were dismayed.

Others were confused.

Still others decided to laugh it off.

Of course, top marketers and SEO experts had their own opinions.

Rand Fishkin’s interest was on the bolded ads, favicons, and brand icons featured in the update.

SEMrush listed three prominent changes the update included.

A few days after the release of the update, Glenn Gabe tweeted his findings on the “volatile” splash it had made.

Will this update affect you? According to Danny Sullivan, it will, no matter where you live.

The Top Sites Impacted by the January 2020 Core Update

In the few days since the January 2020 Core Update rolled in, various sites in different sectors showed significant change in SERP rankings. Let’s look at the winners and losers (so far).

1. Sites with Improved Rankings Since the January 2020 Core Update

According to data from Sistrix, sites in the health sector enjoyed gains since the update rolled in. OnHealth.com and verywellhealth.com saw a 37.7% and 34.72% change, respectively.

January 2020 Core Update winners

Source: Sistrix.com

Other sites with improved ranking include a football site, a movie tickets site, and two news sites. Could this have to do with trending news (the British Royal Family and the Holocaust) and entertainment content?

2. Sites with Lower Rankings Since the January 2020 Core Update

The sites which took the biggest hits since the update are carmagazine.co.uk and boxofficemojo.com.

January 2020 Core Update losers

Source: Sistrix.com

The data shows car buyer and finance sites also taking hits since the update rolled in. Could this be because of the pricing information within the sites? It’s interesting to note that boxofficemojo.com (a movie site just like fandango.com) also shows information related to money.

How to Optimize Your Site to Survive the January 2020 Core Update

Like tons of content creators and webmasters, you’re likely scratching your head over all this information. Luckily, Google has some advice on how to optimize your site for the update.

Google 2020 update - focus on content

Source: webmasters.googleblog.com

Clear as mud?

Let’s go deeper into what it takes to create the kind of content Google always ranks well, no matter what changes it makes to its algorithms.

5 Aspects of Content That Ranks Well on Google

When you add these killer components to your site, you don’t have to spend hours analyzing why one movie site enjoyed gains since the January 2020 Core Update, while another movie site took a serious hit.

5 aspects of content that ranks well on google

1. Originality

Take a look at this piece on cats purring by WebMD.

WebMD cats purring

The article is informative, plus it comes from a trusted domain. On the other hand, look at this one from WHISKAS.

Whiskas why cats purr

A piece like this isn’t counted as plagiarism, as nothing is copied word-for-word from WebMD. However, almost everything is the same. There’s no originality and nothing new added to it.

The result? Although WebMD ranks 422 on Google global engagements, Whiskas ranks 1,752, 296.

2. Comprehensiveness

Comprehensive content dives deep into a topic rather than merely scratching the surface. It provides statistics, charts and graphs, guidelines, and relevant images. After readers go through the article, they feel they’ve gained an insider view into the topic.

Length is an important factor to consider when it comes to content comprehensiveness. It’s almost impossible to dive deep into a topic with a 500-word blog. According to various sources of data, the best length is between 2,000 and 3,000 words.

Average engagement by content length

3. Expertise

When searching for medical advice online, what would you prefer to read? A blog written by a well-known doctor or one by an anonymous person who simply rewrites information they find online?

Expertise is important to Google rankings. Sites owned by people who’ve established authority in their industry do much better than random sites without clear credentials.

4. User-Friendly and Trustworthy Presentation

Imagine reading through a site teaching you how to use English grammar and noticing typos and the misuse of adverbs. Even if this site were owned by an authority in language, you’d still click the back button to look for something else. This shows how important it is for content to be free of sloppiness and errors.

Presentation also affects user experience. For instance, think of how annoying it is to read a blog and have a ton of distracting ads crop up. Or imagine opening a site on your mobile device just to find it’s not optimized for mobile users.

5. User Value

Google’s number one goal, as mentioned, is to give real value to real people. This is what all the updates boil down to.

So, ranking well on Google isn’t about keywords. It’s not even about meta data, rich snippets, and title tags (although they help). What ranking well on Google IS about is making people’s lives a little better each time they visit your site.

Content that continually ranks well on Google has these 5 killer components: 1) Originality 🦄 2) Comprehensiveness ☑ 3) Expertise 👩‍🏫 4) User-friendly, trustworthy presentation 👍 5) User value ❤ Click To Tweet

5 Tips to Update Your Content and Continue Ranking Well

So how do you take the five aspects of good content mentioned above and add them to everything you write? Use these smart tips.

5 tips for updating your content

1. Write Content You Can’t Find Elsewhere

Choose a blog on your topic that ranks highly on Google. Read it thoroughly. Then, ask yourself this question: “What can I add to my blog that isn’t dealt with here?”

For instance, look at this piece from Wired titled Why Do Cats Love Boxes So Much?

Wired - Why do cats love boxes so much

To add unique information to your blog on this topic, you could dive a little deeper and do some research on how cats in the wild “withdraw and hide.” Provide information and details beyond what everyone else has already written about.

2. Improve Content Found on High-Ranking Sites for Your Keyword

Type your keyword into Google. Then, go through the sites that rank highest on the SERPs. Are they good? In-depth? As a reader, what satisfies (and dissatisfies) you about each article or blog? Your next step is to find ways to make your content an improved version of the highest-ranking content on Google.

3. Proofread to Perfection

Follow this five-step guide to ensure your content sparkles every single time.

  • Go over your content quickly to get a first impression.
  • Scrutinize each paragraph to see if it supports your big idea.
  • Attack your blog’s organization – ruthlessly pull sentences and paragraphs apart until they flow well.
  • Read it out loud to nail your tone of voice.
  • Read it again, this time from bottom to top.

4. Step into Your Audience’s Shoes

Why did users look up your topic? What do they fear, dream, desire? When you know your audience, you’ll know what they’re looking for in your content.

5. Forget Keywords

Write naturally. Use keywords because you’re dealing with the topic they surround, not because you need to reach a 3% keyword density.

Want to survive @Google updates? 1) Write content you can't find elsewhere. 🔥 2) Improve on high-ranking content. 🥇 3) Proofread to perfection. 💯 4) Step into your audience's shoes. 👟 5) Forget keywords. 💃 ✅ Click To Tweet

Moving Forward after the January 2020 Core Update

The bad news is the January 2020 Core Update is huge.

The good news is it doesn’t matter.

Yes, your site can take hits and lose rankings. But in the long run, if you focus on becoming your users and knowing what they need, your site will always do well in Google search. You’ll rise above the January 2020 Core Update, or whatever updates rock the SEO world in the future.

Looking for expert blogs, articles, and more that are original, trustworthy, and comprehensive? We write content that ranks well in Google, no matter the updates. Check out our pricing.

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The Great Content Roundup: Week 8, Ready For Google’s Updates?

Excuse the hiatus, folks – it’s been exactly 5 weeks since I wrote a Great Content Roundup!

What exactly was I doing that was more important than the Great Content Roundup?

Ha, you got me. Actually, I was moving from Corpus Christi, Texas to Austin, Texas—the land of beautiful parks, trails, lakes, creeks, and even more importantly, awesome eateries and downtown industry events.

ladybird-lake

Photo credit iStock (RoschetzkyIstockPhoto) 

Why did it take so long? Well, I do have a 9-month-old baby girl, and finding the right daycare was the biggest transition. Then, after that, I somehow caught the bug from the grave—a respiratory and stomach virus with a sinus congestion! Today, I can safely say things are finally going smoothly and my schedule is a bit back to normal, so it’s back to my curated Roundup pieces. I hope no one has missed me too badly. (All right, that was a joke.)

This week, I want to take a look at what Google’s planning to hit the web with coming up. There’s a big mobile change that’s been forecasted by all lately, and a few other updates, but what exactly is going on? I did some digging and research. Here’s a fact-based look.

Resources on Google’s New Upcoming Mobile Algorithm 

It’s a must-read: The official Google announcement that they will be finding more mobile-friendly search results came out late February 2015.

“Mobilegeddon” Is Coming on April 21 – Are You Ready?”SEW piece by Chuck Price, written March 9. One of the first pieces coining Google’s mobile algorithm update as the “Mobilegeddon.” The author reminds us of the issues of duplicacy if webmasters reflect mobile pages from desktop URLs, and gives us pros and cons of being mobile. Overall, mobile is a winner—from a ranking and user point of view.

SearchEngineLand has 3 Actions to Take To Get Ready for Google’s Mobile Search Update. These are excellent questions every webmaster should be asking themselves in preparation for the coming algorithm update.

Is your website ready for Google’s algorithm update? By Erica Tafavoti on Inman. Excellent piece with actionable steps you can take (today) on making sure you’re reading for the big Google changes.

Moz’s 9 Things You Need To Know About Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update by Cindy Krum. A very indepth piece about how exactly these mobile changes will happen and how big the change is: “bigger than the Panda and Penguin updates.”

And finally, here’s a piece we did: What Types Of Links Does Google Hate? A blog on how to stay safe with your linking strategies and to avoid the types of links Google hates nowadays.

Hope that helps! Leave a comment with any suggestions you’d like to see added to our list!