January 14, 2020 Google Core Algorithm Change – Traffic Gains and Losses

On January 13, 2020, Google began rolling out their first Broad Core Algorithm update of 2020. This article will be updated as data is collected and details emerge.

Lindsey, one of our SEO managers here, began calling this algorithm the “Hindsight” algorithm. After all, hindsight is 2020, am I right? At least, that’s what we’re calling it here.

What is a “Broad Core” Algorithm Update?

Broad core updates are different than the other tweaks Google makes to the search results thousands of times each year since they are “broad” and encompass several ranking factors.

In other words, a “broad core” algorithm update is an update which involves several changes to main (core) algorithm which Google uses to rank websites. These updates include a variety of factors such as:

  • Backlink quality and relevance
  • Google’s trust in the domain
  • User Experience
  • Content quality
  • Relevance
  • Other “quality” factors

Interesting Timing and Seasonal Traffic:

Tracking website traffic just after the New Year is tricky due to “seasonal traffic”.

In addition to the seasonal traffic which comes with the New Year, more people are returning to work and traffic patterns on the web change.

A third factor to consider is the fact that Google just changed their search results on desktop with a brand new look. Favicons and breadcrumbs are going to influence click through rates. Read about the new change here: January 13 2020 Google Favicon and Desktop Search Result Layout Change.

Here are some examples of seasonal traffic:

  • Health websites. Diet, nutrition and health websites are often impacted by broad core algorithm updates, however, they are receiving a surge of traffic after January 1st as people have been making New Year’s resolutions to get healthy.
  • eCommerce websites. Depending on the item sold, they may be losing traffic, or gaining traffic. For example, a website selling aids to help people quit smoking could be gaining in traffic, but a site selling Christmas decorations could be losing traffic.
  • Business websites. I work with several law firms and all of them lose traffic in December. It’s the same for most other types of businesses. That traffic trickles back in during January.

January 14, 2020 Broad Core Algorithm Update timeline:

Broad core algorithm updates take several days to thoroughly roll out. Here’s a timeline

  • January 7, 2020: Several websites felt tremors and lost or gained traffic. This may or may not have been related to the broad core algorithm update.
  • January 13, 2020: Google announced the update saying: “The January 2020 Core Update is now live and will be rolling out to our various data centers over the coming days.” We began seeing sites impacted on January 13th around 12pm Eastern Time.
  • January 14, 2020: We are waiting for data. It will be several days before we can comment further about this specific update. However, we have some preliminary data – see below to check out how we track hourly traffic to see early movement.
  • January 15, 2020: The algorithm is still rolling out. I can say that sites impacted in previous algorithms are being affected yet again.
  • January 16 – 18: This is definitely Google twisting the knobs of various factors as seen in previous core algorithm changes. It’s possible there are new factors involved.

Screenshot from RankRanger showing the impact. This was a big one which measured a 107 on their “Risk Level” gauge:

Checking for Traffic Losses or Gains as soon as the Algorithm Drops:

While I generally wait a good week to dive in to the data, sometimes I get antsy and want to check out traffic trends a few hours in to a new algorithm change.

The easiest way to do this is to go in to Google Analytics and bring up a window of 4 days of traffic and compare it to previous traffic. In the example below, I am comparing Saturday – Tuesday’s traffic with the previous Saturday – Tuesday’s traffic.

While this preliminary look at the traffic fluctuations could change, if I had to make a bet, I would say that this client is going to get a boost in traffic from this update.

A Site Impacted – Traffic Loss on January 14, 2020:

Here’s a site which lost traffic on January 14, 2020. The webmaster gave us access to their Google Analytics account so we could check out the traffic hit. This is an affiliate site which sells dietary supplements. In this case, their traffic has been impacted many times over the last two years, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively.

The above site was also impacted on:

Winners and Losers of the January 14, 2020 Core Algorithm

This is not an all inclusive list. Sistrix generally puts out a list of all the winners and losers, so check their blog if that’s what you’re looking for. That said, here are some sites which we track here which have been hit by previous updates:

Winners:

  • draxe.com
  • verywellhealth.com
  • akc.org
  • health.com
  • verywellfit.com

Losers:

  • my.clevelandclinic.org
  • emedicinehealth.com
  • webmd.com
  • reddit.com
  • engadget.com

Takeaways:

There’s really not a lot new to see here and our advice remains the same from previous coverage on this blog. Google is trying to reward the most relevant sites on the web. Some types of content are affected more than others. Focus on having the best content possible, authored by experts, stick to a niche and focus on UX.

Were you affected by the January 14, 2020 Core Algorithm update?

If you were impacted by the January 2020 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. If possible, please mention which niche you are in, if you saw a gain in traffic or a loss in traffic, and if you were impacted by previous updates as well.

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