Google’s December 2020 Core Update – Was Your Retail Website Hit?

Google’s December 2020 Core Update – Was Your Retail Website Hit?

January 15, 2021 Off By Koehler Home Decor

Are you an owner of an eCommerce platform who has experienced a shift in your rankings? The most recent 2020 December Google update to the core algorithm could have affected you.

The mistake made by many site owners is that SEO is viewed as a static strategy, they take the approach to SEO that it’s one and done.

The reality is that SEO sets a continuously shifting goal in order to increase organic search. Google made more than 3,200 unannounced updates to its algorithm in 2019. Some modifications barely make a dent, some were a little more noticeable.

Then, there are updates and ‘improvements’ that will be announced and recognized by Google. This keeps SEO professionals and owners of websites on their toes trying to see how they are impacted by them. That is what happened with the new Google Core update at the end of 2020.

Read on to find out more about the Google December 2020 Core update, how your website might have been impacted, and what you can do about it.

Why Does Google Keep Changing Things?

Without seeing the big picture behind the search engine, it’s hard to grasp Google’s continual desire to keep changing things.

The search engine portion of Google is directly connected to the main source of revenue for the business – ads. They need to continue finding ways to keep users loyal to their search engine and raise ad sales in order to keep stockholders satisfied and to keep revenue increasing. Business executives recognize that there is no ad revenue without a useful search engine.

The goal of Google then is to really understand what users are searching for. That’s why their bots understanding of the meaning of searches as well as the purpose of a user’s search is evolving to become more sophisticated. Which means making all these changes.

What Was the December 2020 Google Core Update About?

As is the norm, Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, a man who used to be a big name in SEO himself, announced both the beginning and the end of the Core Update Rollout on Twitter:

As Google provides very little insight (ever) into what their updates do or mean, this update is still being hotly discussed and dissected in SEO circles. It will be a while before the full impact is known (and then it’ll all be educated guesswork).

What is known however is that once again YMYL sites were heavily targeted again. YMYL – Your Money or Your Life – sites are considered by Google to be “any page including content that can affect someone’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability”

And also directly from Google: “Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).”

So, retail websites are right there in the YMYL mix. And the early numbers (as covered here by the SEOs at Moz) show both losses and big gains for retail websites.

Were You Impacted by the December 2020 Google Core Update?

The first thing that you want to do is to look at your site’s analytics. You should start by checking with Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see if your traffic dropped and the source of the drop.

If you see a large fluctuation in search results, it could be due to the latest core update.

This is a good possibility if you sell almost anything that your site was affected, but the good news is that for some retailers the movement was pretty positive. Others did take quite a hit though.

You definitely want to monitor traffic for the next few weeks as the changes are fully rolled out by Google. Through consistent monitoring, you’ll have an easier time understanding how your site was impacted.

If your site dropped in rankings, look at the sites that rank ahead of you now. These are pages that you want to run through an SEO tool like SEMRush and Ahrefs. These tools will allow you to see what search terms they’re ranking for and other factors like backlinks.

If your site was impacted negatively by this core update, the important thing is to not panic. That can be really difficult if your income depends on search traffic. You need to take an objective look at your site and make decisions based on data.

Site owners often have a knee-jerk reaction to these changes. They’ll do things to try to get their site ranking high again, but they wind up doing more harm than good.

How Can Your eCommerce Site Be More Google-Friendly?

Whether your site was impacted by the latest Google core update, you want to make sure that your site stays at or near the top of search results.

It doesn’t matter what your eCommerce site is about, there are best practices to follow to get traffic from organic search. Here are the areas that you want to focus on.

Website Performance

The foundation of SEO doesn’t start with keywords; it starts with your website. You need to make sure that your site is technically sound in order to rank high in search results.

When your store is set up, you have to send a signal to visitors and search engines that your site is secure. That’s done by installing an SSL certificate on your site, so your URL starts with HTTPS. Google made this an official ranking signal in 2014.

Another area that needs to be monitored is site speed. This is especially important for eCommerce sites. There is a link between conversions and site speed. You could be losing a lot of potential customers if your site takes too long to load.

More people are using mobile devices to find information and make purchases online. On Black Friday 2020, about 60% of purchases were made on mobile devices. And as Google’s is a ‘mobile first’ index now, a site that is mobile friendly is more important than ever.

If you’re using a hosted eCommerce platform, you want to make sure that you’re using the latest version of templates, that keeps users and search engines in mind.


Do you know what separated Google’s search engines from search engines like Yahoo! 20 years ago? Backlinks.

The reason why Google became the company it is today is because it wanted to create a way to rank sites based on quality as well as matching search terms.

The algorithm was revised to judge the quality of the site based on the number of other sites that linked to that content. A link to content was considered a positive vote.

Backlinks are still a big part of Google’s algorithm, though the algorithm takes much more than the sheer number of links to a site. The quality of the backlinks matters a lot more now than the quantity.

You want to focus on getting quality and quantity sites to link to your content. That can be done through things like social media shares and guest blogging. The key is to provide useful content that people want to link to.

Establishing More Trust

Trust is a huge issue for your site’s visitors and Google. Establishing trust can be done through online reviews, having several ways for customers to contact you, and having a clear returns/exchange process.

Conduct a Site Audit

With all of this information, where can you even begin to improve your search results? Start with a site audit. This is where you take an objective look at your site’s content and structure.

The goal with an audit is to understand what your site is doing well from an SEO standpoint and where improvements need to be made.

It’s All About the Users

It’s all too easy to get lost in figuring out the latest Google update to the core algorithm. There are dozens upon dozens of ranking factors.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about users. If you take care of the technical part to tell Google what your site is about and provide a good user experience and have great content, you’ll do well.

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