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Google’s May 2022 Update’s Very Big, Very Vague Changes

While we were writing our last blog post, Google was in the middle of rolling out a new core algorithm update. Because we prefer to let the dust settle a bit before going over what changed, we looked at whether Google had gotten any better at recognizing evergreen blog articles, instead.

Now that the chips have fallen, though, we feel confident in saying that Google made some very big changes to its core algorithm and that we have no idea what they were.

Google’s May 2022 Update

We had been expecting a core update for a while, given that Google has a history of updating its core algorithms a few times every year and that the last one was in November. The search engine’s announcement came on May 25, 2022, and mentioned that the update would take a week or two to fully roll out. It also explained that, like other core updates, the tweaks would affect the base algorithm that Google used to rank pages and would not target specific sites or types of sites.

The Updates Created Lots of Volatility and Change

As data flooded in, it was clear that the May 2022 Update was a big one, with websites moving all over in the results pages. A few SEO professionals called it one of the biggest updates they had seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be very little method to the madness. The volatility was extending largely equally into all of the recognized verticals, or types of websites that SEO pros recognize, like Health, Travel, or Finance sites.

The volatility of the update was like a volcano erupting

Lots of Sites Saw Reversals of Prior Demotions, But That Says Little

Really, the only trend that we could see – and calling it a “trend” is a bit strong – is that there seemed to be a lot of websites that had been dinged in the rankings in the prior months, had done little to fix anything, but were now returning to somewhere close to their prior visibility.

There are a lot of possible explanations for this issue, and there are also questions regarding the veracity of the data set – we’re pulling this trend largely from self-reported effects of the May 2022 Update on social media and in the comments sections of SEO articles. While it is common for website owners to talk about their experiences post-update in order to provide SEO pros with another data point, there’s little that can be done to ensure that they are real. We have no way to confirm whether these reports are true or whether the site at issue really did nothing to improve its rankings.

If they are legitimate, though, and there is a real trend where lots of previously demoted sites were getting resurrected in the results, it could still mean a lot of different things. While it could mean that Google was walking back or even cancelling recent changes to its algorithms, we would expect this “almost a trend” to be far more widespread and certain.

The Uncertainty is Normal in SEO: Just Stick to the Script

We know that blog posts like these often make website owners mad. Why can’t SEO professionals just figure out what Google is doing and tell them how to reach the top of the SERP?

Our response may be surprising: We have. We know that what Google is doing is providing their users with results that are relevant and important for the queries that they have entered. You can get to the top of the results page by providing content that Google deems to meet those two criteria.

As a lawyer, this may feel reminiscent of the process where the legislature passes a law and the executive branch and the judiciary both point at it and ask, “What the hell does that mean?” like the meme of Captain Picard.

That would not be inaccurate.

Only here, it’s a corporation that’s making the rules and then not publishing them, leaving it up to the rest of us to conduct experiments, gather data from the results, figure out what it means, and then adjust accordingly.

For law firms, we always have (and probably always will) advise our clients to focus on the big picture: Create good content and trust that Google will recognize it for what it is.