January 2020 Core Update: Everything You Need to Know

Google preannounced another core algorithm update on Monday, January 13, 2020, and it shortly rolled out later in the day. This preannouncement marks the third instance Google has notified webmasters before a core update rolled out. 

Here is the official preannouncement and announcement from Google: 

Here is everything you need to know about the January 2020 Core Update:

What is a Core Update?

Google has explained that it regularly makes one or more changes each day and have even announced that they made over 3,200 changes to its search systems in one year

So what makes core updates so different?

Core updates are bigger and more significant than other daily changes Google makes. These core updates tend to produce wider gains and losses for sites. Because of these effects, Google aims to confirm and preannounce core algorithm updates. 

Core algorithm updates are designed to ensure that Google is providing the best content for its users. In their own words, Google describes core algorithm updates as they are “designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.”

When was the January 2020 Core Update?

The January 2020 Core Update officially rolled out on Monday, January 13, 2020 and was “mostly finished” on January 16, 2020. 

Preannouncement (January 13, 2020): 

Announcement (January 13, 2020): 

End of Core Update (January 16, 2020): 

Was the January 2020 Core Update Big?

Early indications show that the January 2020 Core update is a big and fast moving algorithm update—much stronger and faster than the last core update (September 2019 Core Update). Reaction in the SEO community has been widespread.

Algorithm update tracking tools like SEMRush Sensor show very high volatility during the January 2020 Core Update rollout. The below figure shows SERP volatility from the SEMRush Sensor: 

Was the January 2020 Core Update Global?

Yes, the January 2020 was a global update—not just English, United States. Here is the official confirmation from Google’s Danny Sullivan: 

Note that moving forward all core updates will be global updates. 

What if I was Affected by the January 2020 Core Update?

If you were negatively affected by the January 2020 Core Update, there is no need to panic. 

Core updates are not designed to target websites for specific issues. Sites that have been affected haven’t violated the Google webmaster guidelines or been subject to a manual action. Changes with core updates are about improving how Google’s systems assess content overall. 

Google’s advice for core updates: focus on content. 

Last year, Google expanded upon this explanation with a blog post about what webmasters should know about Google’s core updates. Within this blog post, Google’s Danny Sullivan outlines a lengthy list of questions to ask yourself about the content on your site. These questions are shown below:

Was my Site Affected by the January 2020 Core Update?

Seeing a significant increase or drop in traffic to your site? Performics recommends digging into the following information to determine whether or not you were impacted by an algorithm change. 

  1. Check the chatter in your industry around the newest Google algorithm. Are blogs reporting that websites similar to your own have been impacted?
  2. Could seasonal changes be impacting your traffic?
  3. Have any big changes to the site (new pages or removed pages) have led to this change? Check tools such as Google Search Console for coverage issues.
  4. Look into specific queries and pages in Google Search Console during the time of the algorithm launch to check for any major changes.
  5. Dig into your organic traffic statistics. Did the drop happen during the same time as the algorithm release? Was organic traffic impacted?
  6. Take a look at the search results page for your top queries. Has the page changed significantly? Are there more images and videos? Has the type of content that Google is ranking changed?

Always remember that correlation does not mean causation. If you see a change in traffic around an algorithm change, make sure to take a look at all other factors and eliminate other factors. Missing another factor could lead to a loss in traffic.

How Do I Keep Up with Google Core Algorithm Updates?

Keeping up with Google algorithm updates and constant SEO news can be a challenge—that’s where the Performics SEO newsletter, The Featured Snippet, can help. The Featured Snippet compiles the most important SEO news of the month including important Google algorithm updates like the January 2020 Core Update. Keep a lookout on the Perfomics blog for The Featured Snippet and never miss an important SEO news item ever again!