Google Algorithm Update + Rankings Dropped? | Skipblast

Google Algorithm Update + Rankings Dropped?

Sometimes you can do everything the “right” way with your sites, just for a Google update to roll out and crush your site. And sometimes you do everything the “wrong” way, and you actually get rewarded when a Google algo update rolls out.

So, what does this mean? Here’s the thing – every single time Google rolls out a new algorithm update, there are sites that take a beating that shouldn’t and vice versa.

And sometimes, you have a site that gets kicked down the SERPs that you think shouldn’t have…but an deep audit reveals that maybe it deserved it.

Getting Hit By Google’s May 2020 Core Update

Guess what? One of the sites in my portfolio took a hell of a beating when the core update rolled out in May.

The rollout of this update officially started on May 4th, but if you’ve been in this game long enough then you were able to recognize that it actually had a trial run a week or so earlier (like these big updates always do).

Here’s what my Google analytics looks like for this site:

may 4th google update traffic drop

What you don’t see in the previous months is that traffic to this site really took off and kind of exploded when the stay at home orders started in the U.S. In fact, it was up to over 10K daily traffic.

What happened was some keywords that I’d been targeting finally moved to the top of page one. And, since the broad niche is entertainment, the search volume was around 10x of normal volume.


So, getting that #1 spot (featured snippet) right before things started getting bad in the U.S. boosted traffic. Then, the traffic really shot up with everyone at home wanting to be entertained.

Other data about this site:

  • aged 2+ years
  • minimal link building, but links are all high quality & white hat
  • the DA is high 20s
  • most traffic from organic search, but some from Pinterest and Facebook
  • content quality is good because I wrote 90% of the articles on the site & edited the other 10%

And this is just a sample of the carnage in Ahrefs for this site once the update hit it:

ahrefs lost rankings

Within a few days this site had zero keywords ranking in the top 100. None at all.

The only traffic the site was getting was via social and non-Google search engines.


While I’ve had sites take small beatings from algo updates in the past, and I’ve had manual link penalties, I have never had a site with all of the keywords gone from the top 100 due to an algo update.

What To Do About It?

You can imagine the alarm I felt upon seeing all those rankings vanish. Fortunately, I’ve been struggling with finding a monetization offer that converts well for this site, so there wasn’t a big income loss when this site disappeared from the SERPs.

The first thing that I did was check Search Console to see if I’d somehow gotten a manual penalty. It really looked like a manual penalty.

But a penalty never appeared in Search Console.


Then, I checked to make sure the site was still indexed in Google. It was.

Since I’d seen the Google announcement about Core Web Vitals before anyone else was really talking about it, I figured speed played a part in the core update. So, my next plan of action was to check site speed.

core web vitals slow speed

As you can see in the screenshot above, the site was having poor speed on mobile. That first red day is April 20th and the last on June 8th.

This is despite me fixing the speed prior to June 8th – it just took Google that long to actually validate the fix.

Here’s a screenshot of the problem:

LCP speed issue

Though I’m not sure why it says it was first detected on May 28th when the graph clearly shows April 20th.

Fixing the poor Core Web Vitals issue was a really easy fix. All I did was move the site from WPX to Cloudways. That’s literally all I did.

And I haven’t done anything else to the site at all, so far.

Typically, these Google updates roll out and something gets fucked up, so a correction comes about 10 days later. So, I always tell people to wait for that correction to see if things go back to normal.

They did not go back to normal for this site.

Though, the fact that it took Google until June 12th to validate my page speed fix could have something to do with that.


So far, the lowest traffic day for this site since the May 4th core update was on June 12th (which is weird since that’s the day they validated the page speed fix). And traffic was 146 for the day.

But if you refer back to the Google Analytics screenshot above, you’ll notice that the most recent traffic trend seems to be rising back up.

Yesterday’s traffic to the site was 266 and I’m starting to see keywords popping back in Ahrefs. I’ve even reclaimed a featured snippet.

That being said, I have every intention of going through this site and doing all the things I’ve detailed in this post. But I likely won’t have time to do that for another three weeks.


Final Thoughts

I wrote this post to be transparent about the fact that anyone can get hit by one of these Google updates. Even when you do everything the “right” way.

On a side note, don’t you find it interesting that you never hear any of the big gurus admitting that they have sites hit by the algo updates? (With the exception of Spencer Hawes back with the RankHero fiasco)

In fact, I know one white hat guru who got absolutely hammered by a core update a couple of years ago, and then lied about it when asked if he’d gotten hit by it. He still maintains that he’s never been hit by an algo update.



Anyways….Even though I was doing everything by the book with this site, it still got hit.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement on my site. Because I know there is simply because it’s an aged site with content that hasn’t been updated in a while.

The truth is that once I get through my audit, I know that the site will be stronger than ever.

So, if you’ve got a site that’s been hit by an update – I know the panic, confusion, and anger that you’re feeling. All you can do is audit the hell out of your site and keep on working on it until the site bounces back.


13 thoughts on “Google Algorithm Update + Rankings Dropped?”

  1. Hi Shawna,

    I recently also got hit really hard by the May update and lost about 80% of my traffic literally overnight and still haven’t recovered.

    All of the serps for my main KW’s are all filled with huge authority websites such as Pinterest, reddit, Quora, facebook, youtube, gettyimages, shutterstock, medium, or just utter crap.

    I used to be ranked #1 or in the top 3 for a lot of KW’s because I have really good content and engagement.

    The site was mainly white hat too!

    The only two issues I see are the authority of the site and page speed.

    I’m currently running ezoic and it’s slowing my site speed by quite a lot.

    I’m not sure what I should be doing.

    Should I try to build more backlinks to boost the authority, get rid of ezoic for good, or should I just wait it out?

    This site is my main source of income and I’ve spent over a year on it, and it saddens me to see all of my work get flushed down the drain overnight like this.

    Please help!

    • Hey Kevin, sorry to hear about your site also taking a beating. Sadly, I haven’t had the time to dig in on this one yet as I’ve been crazy busy. But I did notice that my hit site has started a slow recovery with the small update people were talking about last week. Another person I know who also got hit by the May update is also seeing some positive movements. And neither of us have done anything to the hit sites! I hope you’re seeing positive movements as well.

      I think fixing page speed is definitely a good idea, but I’m not sure that this alone is your problem. The site of mine that got his has zero ads on it and my Ezoic site did not get hit.

      I also think that getting good, quality backlinks is always a safe play as well. If you’re on a tight budget, then try HARO for free links or nobs.links for cheap links.

      Good luck!

  2. Hi Shawna. I would start off by saying that this website of yours and the content you put here has been a real eye opener for me.

    This is Dhananjay Bhardwaj. I run a website in a tech niche that I started back in 2017. I know how people would suggest not diving into the tech niche as it’s ridiculously competitive. But I got into blogging because of my interests in tech (have been writing about it since 2012). I was made aware of SEO in 2018 and had no idea something like that even existed.

    Anyhow. My site ran pretty solid up until June 2019. I was outranking a majority of my competition because of the quality of the content I post, compared to others in my niche. At least that’s why a lot of my readers told me.

    I have never indulged myself in any shady SEO techniques, and yet my site was hit hard back in June 2019 with the core update. Thankfully, it resurfaced automatically with the September 2019 update.

    Only if I knew it would get hit again in January 2020 core update. Ever since then, my website has only lost traffic gradually.

    There’s something common between these two traffic loses. After the June 2019 update and after the January 2020 update, a majority of all my articles lost ranking and no matter how much I improvise them in terms of the content, their position won’t improve. All the new content that I published after the update last year, as well as this year wouldn’t get ranked either.

    I somehow believe it’s an algorithmic penalty in play. Why? Because despite the amount or quality of content I have written since January, the traffic never increases. I am not saying that all the pages should rank. Some keywords may have low search volume, etc. But there’s no way that none of them brings traffic. I know you would think that I might be writing on topics people won’t search for. But that’s not the case.

    For the past five months, I have tried and dig into the site, to find the cause of this. There must be something, right? Something that led to the downfall of my site two times within an year’s time frame.

    Trust me, I went over every aspect, be it the quality of content, the site speed, excessive ads, on-page SEO, and what not. With no luck.

    So, that’s what I want to ask you. Would you be able to help me track the root of the drop and help me fix it?

    I don’t know where else to go. I have followed up tips from SEO gurus (which I never trust), I have tried playing along Google’s guidelines, and yet my site fails to rank and all I see ranking are sites that stuff keywords, scrape content, and have manipulated their backlinks (in a way that Google can surely figure out, and yet).

    Please help me out a bit Shawna. I like your approach towards SEO and Google, I see some resemblance when it comes to that.

    Waiting for your reply. Be safe.

    • Hey, thanks for the kind words! And sorry to hear about your site taking a beating. If you’ve done a comprehensive audit yourself, then it sounds like you need to have someone else take a look at it. Unfortunately, I’m super busy right now and don’t have the time. You may want to see if Glen Allsop at Detailed/Viperchill has any openings – he’s really the only person I can think of that I’d recommend for this sort of thing.

      • Thanks a lot for the heads up! I will try and get in touch with Glen and see if I can really afford his services. 😉

  3. Hi there,
    I am facing the same issue, my entertainment site seriously got badly hit by this update.
    My traffic peaked around 3rd and 4th May and suddenly there was a sharp crash (lost 50% traffic on 5th May).
    Since then, I researched, analyzed, and formulate some points I would like to mention according to my own analysis.
    1) I was dominating the first page for a Hollywood related niche, even with my comparatively lower DA, I dominated the SERP (kudos to my talented writers).
    After this update, my site was (and still currently is) outranked by a health website and a news website, and ironically both have complete BS content.
    I am like, are you serious? A health-related site and a lower DA news site for a Hollywood related KW?
    Now, let’s get this, why Google is promoting news and medical-related sites?
    I mean as per the COVID crisis all are either isolated or home quarantined, why would a bored user like to get bombarded with news or medical info???
    Also if a user is interested in such terms he/she could just check it in the news section or search a medical query.
    2) Now the SERPS are completely dominated by Pinterest, Youtube, and Google books.
    If I search for a question-related query or some general term, mostly I get is a wiki snippet or Youtube snippets (video’s description) along with that video’s timestamp.
    It doesn’t really make a sense
    OR is it just Google trying to protect its AI from abnormal search terms during this Pandemic?
    Would love to hear how you recovered?

    • Hey Zac,

      Honestly, I haven’t touched the site at all since it dropped in the update. But it’s been slowing recovering – though nowhere near what it was before the May update. Based on what I’m seeing with this site, it was replaced by sites with a stronger link profile regardless of how terrible the content on those sites might be. What’s interesting is that some of the sites now ranking don’t even really meet search intent, but they have loads of links giving them that authority boost.

      I don’t really plan on doing anything to this site for the next couple of months other than just waiting it out and seeing what happens with other updates.

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Shawna,
    I must chime in here myself. My main site also got pummeled. With the May update. I’ve been doubling down and cranking out the content ever since to no avail. It’s white hat, all the content I’ve personally written myself. As someone who refused to do any link building not even guest posting, my options are limited at this point admittedly.

    I originally got into this in 2008, listened to all the gurus at the time (ironically none are around today or have been completely discredited). I bought all kinds of links,, thin content, you name it, I tried it. The result? My sites all got obliterated first by Penguin the Hummingbird finished the last of them off.

    I got back in the “game” only as a way to practice my writing when I got into freelance writing. I also discovered the game has changed greatly since those days. I stopped freelancing and just focused my efforts in building my own sites.

    One of the main lessons I did take away from those days though was that an algo update doesn’t necessarily mean a site’s death sentence. Case in point. I had kept one site since I used it for my own offline business. I got most of my business by Google Ads anyway, not SEO. Funny thing happened though. A year or two later, that site’s rankings were all in the top three for their target keywords. It got to the point where I no longer needed Google Ads to drive traffic.

    Anyway, my plan is to refocus my content efforts on some other sites I had planned and to focus on getting better and more efficient at cranking out the content. My site should bounce back, but who knows when? In the meantime I will focus on diversifying my efforts, keep learning and improving. Let the chips fall where they may

    Too many get into this gig for the “quick buck” take short cuts (myself included) and quit when the going gets tough. However, if you love writing and creating content like I do (look at your content as assets) you’ll stick around for the long haul. I know I am…..

    Sorry for the long comment….

    • Hey David,

      As someone who can’t write short blog posts, I have to say — never apologize for long comments! 🙂

      Like you I’ve had sites in the past rebound long after an update for no real reason. That’s why I’m not really doing anything with my currently hit site to recover it. I know that it will eventually resurface, and I’ll audit it when I have the time, but my efforts are focused on other sites for now.

      I think anyone who has been in this industry as long as we have knows that algo updates do this to sites sometimes. On a related note, this is why I’ll never have just one site and prefer to have multiple sites.

  5. Hey Shawna,
    discovered your blog after the interview with Doug Cunnington.

    One of my websites got hit with the 5th May Core update too … Difficult to understand why. It’s a white-hat website and content on it is really good (I think).

    Sometimes, the only solution is to focus on other things … and wait the next core update as you said in your interview.

    However, a bit frustrated by such Google “events,” I’ve been building a tool to better understand how Google impacts keywords and pages.
    Still early days though but hope to get some insights…

  6. “Within a few days this site had zero keywords ranking in the top 100. None at all.”

    Sounds familiar…swap out May 2020 with May 2022 and it would still fit 🙂

    Did this particular site eventually recover?


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