Google’s ranking and indexing processes change constantly. Unfortunately, they don’t always tell us what these changes are. This seems to be the case for the unconfirmed May 22nd Google Algorithm update.

Naturally, this makes life difficult for SEO pros.

Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to make your site as attractive as possible to Google’s algorithm. This is difficult when the goalposts are constantly changing, and information from Google is unclear.

Although unconfirmed, the May 22nd Google algorithm update seems to have been pretty major.

In fact, webmasters around the world have reported significant drops in their traffic. Few people are reporting increases. Additionally, trackers are flagging consistently high algorithmic activity in May 2021.

Google Algorithm Update

But does anyone actually know what’s going on? Even more importantly, if you’ve been stung by this update, how can you recover?

Let’s start with the basics.

What Was the May 22nd Google Algorithm Update?

As we said already, the May 22nd update is unconfirmed. That doesn’t mean that we don’t know if anything actually changed. Rather, Google simply hasn’t announced any specific changes.

This is actually fairly common. Google is constantly updating its algorithm in some way or another.

So what makes May 2021 different?

The difference is the extent of the fluctuation.

There are plenty of smart folks out there tracking how the algorithm changes over time. They all pretty much agree that something seismic occurred on May 22nd 2021. However, there’s some disagreement about whether this is a core algorithm update, or an experiment gone wrong.

May 22 update tweets
Reports of the impact of the update have been mixed. Image credit: Twitter

Some webmasters are even of the opinion that the AI is in the driving seat, changing the weighting of different ranking metrics on the fly. Others think that a bug could have occurred.

Even before the 22nd, May 2021 has seen extensive fluctuations in Google ranking algorithm. In fact, pretty much every weekend in May 2021, there has been speculation of an unconfirmed algorithm update rolling out.

Other Algorithm Updates in 2021

Some confusion is also arising from the fact that other algorithm updates have been announced and are expected in the near future. One of the big sources of confusion is the upcoming Page Experience Update.

This had previously been scheduled for May 2021, but has been postponed until the summer. It seems like we were expecting one algorithm update, but got another.

The Page Experience Update has been in the works for a long time, and will introduce new UX factors as direct ranking metrics, including largest contentful paint (LCP) and cumulative layout shift.

Page experience update infographic
The page experience update was previously scheduled for May 2021. Image credit: WordStream

It’s possible that the May 22nd Google algorithm update is related to this somehow, although there isn’t much clear evidence of this.

Google also recently held their annual I/O conference, where they announced a new technology, dubbed their multitask unified model (MUM). Essentially, this is a machine learning algorithm that will help Google answer complicated queries.

Could this be related to the May 22nd update? Opinions are divided.

What Does the May 22nd Update Impact?

Anecdotally, the May 22nd update seems to have had a net negative impact on websites’ traffic figures. That is, across most webmaster forums, more site owners are reporting losses than gains.

Of course, this isn’t exactly scientific. For one thing, webmasters who have lost traffic are obviously a lot more likely to post about it on a forum than ones who have seen gains.

However, this still gives us some clues as to what’s going on.

Think about it this way. If Google simply changed the way it decides which sites rank the best, you’d expect to see around the same number of winners and losers.

Since we seem to be seeing more drops in traffic than gains, this probably means that there has been a certain amount of de-indexing. That is, rather than reshuffling the search results, Google has simply stopped displaying some sites for given keywords.

There also doesn’t seem to be a specific geography which is impacted.

The majority of webmasters reporting problems are based in the US, but this doesn’t tell us much, as the majority of English speaking webmasters are also Americans. Closer to home, we’ve seen clear evidence of drops in the UK and Ireland too.

Change trackers have noted a higher change in the US, and more moderate fluctuations in European countries.

Impact of the May 2022 Core Update: Dive Deep into the Data

The May 2022 Core Update, officially named the “May 2022 Broad Core Algorithm Update,” sent ripples through the SEO world. While many updates come and go, this one had a noticeable impact on search results across various industries. Let’s delve into the data and statistics to understand its effects and identify emerging trends.

Overall Search Results:

  • Volatility: Studies by Semrush and RankRanger revealed an initial peak in volatility, similar to previous core updates. However, the duration of this peak was shorter, indicating quicker settling of search rankings.
  • Visibility shifts: While volatility subsided, overall visibility shifts were significant. Sistrix reported a general drop for news and media publishers, highlighting a potential shift towards high-quality content and user experience.

Industry-Specific Impacts:

  • Winners:
    • Big brand eCommerce: Websites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy saw significant visibility gains, likely due to their robust product schema implementation.
    • Video platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Disney Plus, and Hulu experienced impressive growth, reflecting Google’s growing emphasis on video content.
    • Local businesses: Listings with complete and accurate Google My Business profiles seemed to benefit, aligning with Google’s focus on local search accuracy.
  • Losers:
    • Thin content websites: Sites lacking depth, originality, or value saw significant drops, emphasizing the importance of high-quality content.
    • Keyword-stuffed content: Websites relying on aggressive keyword stuffing tactics likely faced penalties due to Google’s focus on natural language processing.
    • Clickbait headlines and misleading content: Sites utilizing these tactics may have been negatively impacted as Google prioritizes user trust and engagement.

Data and Statistics:

  • Semrush Sensor: Reported peak volatility of 9.4 (out of 10) across all verticals, similar to the November 2021 update.
  • Sistrix Visibility Index: Showed a 34.9 position loss for the biggest losers and a 31.4 position gain for the biggest winners.
  • RankRanger: Observed a similar average position change compared to the November 2021 update, indicating a significant impact.

Important Note:

It’s crucial to remember that data and statistics offer a general overview. Individual website performance can vary depending on various factors beyond industry trends.

Looking Forward:

While the initial dust has settled, the May 2022 Core Update’s impact continues to ripple through the search landscape. By understanding the trends and focusing on high-quality content, user experience, and technical optimization, websites can adapt and thrive in the evolving search ecosystem.

Key Changes in the May 2022 Core Update: Beyond Speculation

While Google doesn’t explicitly disclose all algorithm changes, piecing together confirmed information and industry observations can shed light on the May 2022 Core Update’s key shifts. Let’s explore some confirmed changes and their potential motivations, aligning them with Google’s overall search quality goals.

Confirmed Changes:

  • Enhanced Focus on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T): Google emphasized E-A-T even more, likely impacting YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) topics like health, finance, and legal information. This aligns with Google’s aim to deliver reliable and trustworthy information to users.
  • Prioritization of User Experience (UX): Signals like mobile-friendliness, page speed, and overall site engagement likely gained more weight. This reinforces Google’s commitment to providing a seamless and efficient search experience.
  • Emphasis on Content Depth and Originality: Thin, superficial content, or content heavily relying on existing content, might have seen decreases. Google strives for original, informative content that truly adds value to the searcher’s experience.
  • Improved Understanding of Natural Language: The update likely involved advancements in Google’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities, enabling better comprehension of search intent and content relevancy. This allows Google to deliver more precise and contextually relevant results.
  • Continued Fight Against Spam and Misinformation: Google likely made further strides in identifying and penalizing manipulative tactics like keyword stuffing and misleading content, upholding their commitment to accurate and trustworthy information.

Potential Reasons and Alignment with Search Quality Goals:

  • Combatting Disinformation: Prioritizing E-A-T and UX in YMYL topics helps combat the spread of misinformation and ensures users find reliable sources for critical information.
  • Enhancing User Satisfaction: Focusing on UX and content quality aims to provide users with a faster, more engaging, and ultimately more satisfying search experience.
  • Rewarding Valuable Content: Prioritizing depth and originality incentivizes creators to produce high-quality content that genuinely benefits users, improving the overall information ecosystem.
  • Understanding User Intent: Improved NLP allows Google to better understand what users are truly looking for, delivering more relevant and helpful results.
  • Maintaining Trust and Credibility: Combating spam and misinformation bolsters Google’s trustworthiness as a reliable source of information, a core value for the company.


These are based on confirmed information and educated deductions. The full scope of the update might not be fully known. Nonetheless, understanding these key changes and their potential motivations can help website owners adapt their strategies to align with Google’s evolving search quality goals and thrive in the long run.

How to Adapt Your Content for the May 2022 Core Update: Actionable Tips and Resources

The May 2022 Core Update brought about significant changes to Google’s search algorithm, emphasizing expertise, user experience, and high-quality content. To thrive in this evolving landscape, adapting your content is crucial. Here are specific and actionable tips for different content types, along with valuable tools and resources to help you optimize:

Blog Posts:

  • Focus on Expertise: Establish yourself as an authority in your niche. Cite credible sources, showcase your qualifications, and offer unique insights.
  • Prioritize Depth and Originality: Conduct thorough research, provide in-depth analysis, and avoid simply rehashing existing information.
  • Optimize for User Experience: Break up text with visuals, ensure mobile-friendliness, and write in a clear and engaging style.
  • Target User Intent: Understand what your audience is searching for and tailor your content to answer their questions directly.
  • Address YMYL Topics with Care: If your blog covers sensitive topics like health or finance, double down on E-A-T by citing reliable sources and demonstrating expertise.

Product Pages:

  • Enhance Product Descriptions: Go beyond basic features. Highlight unique benefits, address pain points, and use rich content like videos and high-quality images.
  • Leverage Schema Markup: Implement structured data to help search engines better understand your product information.
  • Optimize User Reviews: Encourage genuine customer reviews and respond to them thoughtfully.
  • Prioritize Mobile Experience: Ensure your product pages load quickly and offer a seamless experience on all devices.
  • Connect to Relevant Blog Content: Create informative blog posts related to your products to demonstrate expertise and improve discoverability.

Local Business Listings:

  • Complete and Accurate Google My Business Profile: Include all crucial information, high-quality photos, and positive customer reviews.
  • Manage Online Reputation: Encourage customer reviews and actively respond to both positive and negative feedback.
  • Optimize for Local Search: Include relevant keywords in your profile and descriptions, and claim your listing on other local directories.
  • Showcase Local Events and Offers: Keep your profile updated with local events, promotions, and community involvement to establish yourself as a local presence.
  • Engage with Reviews and Questions: Respond to questions and reviews promptly, demonstrating responsiveness and customer care.

Recommended Tools and Resources:

  • Google Search Console: Monitor website performance, track crawl errors, and analyze search traffic.
  • Semrush: Conduct keyword research, track competitor performance, and audit your website’s SEO health.
  • Ahrefs: Uncover backlink profiles, monitor keyword rankings, and track competitor analysis.
  • Moz Pro: Optimize content for readability and ensure technical SEO compliance.
  • Yoast SEO: A popular WordPress plugin offering on-page optimization guidance and technical SEO suggestions.

What Should You Do if Your Traffic Drops in May 2021?

Not panicking is a good start. In fact, the impact of the May 22nd update is still unclear, and we still don’t know the specific reasons for changes in ranking. Even if we did, chasing the algorithm is never likely to be an effective strategy.

May 22 SEO practices inforgraphic
Even when algorithms change, the core levers of SEO do not. Image credit:

Instead, it’s important to stick to the tried and true methods of good SEO.

Focus on Strong, Valuable Content

There are no shortcuts in SEO. Rather than trying to predict what the algorithm wants, your efforts will be much better served by creating the best content you can for users. This is the best chance you have of consistently ranking for a wide variety of keywords.

This means optimising your service pages for appropriate target keywords, as well as engaging in regular content marketing to boost your domain level rankability and authority.

Keep Your Technical SEO in Check

Additionally, it’s vital to ensure that your technical SEO is perfect in order to maximise the ranking potential of your content. This applies to both metadata and site performance and security.

Additionally, the Page Experience update is still coming in the near future. This means that your load speeds and UX need to be up to scratch. You can use an audit tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to check out where you need to improve your page experience.

Talk to SEO Experts

There are countless SEO strategies out there. Choosing the right one means that you need to know what the pain points are with your site as it stands.

Of course, if you want to improve your SEO, the best thing you can do is work with someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Speak to our SEO experts today to decide what the best steps are for your website.


1. Did the May 2022 Core Update have a big impact on search results?

Yes, the update caused significant shifts in ranking, particularly for news, media, and local businesses. Some industries like eCommerce and video platforms saw positive impacts, while others like thin content websites experienced losses.

2. What were the key changes Google made in the update?

The update emphasized expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), user experience (UX), content depth and originality, natural language processing (NLP), and the fight against spam and misinformation.

3. How can I adapt my content to the new update?

Focus on creating high-quality, informative content that demonstrates expertise. Prioritize user experience by ensuring mobile-friendliness and clear writing. Optimize for your target audience’s intent and address specific YMYL topics with care (for health, finance, etc.).

4. Do I need to use any special tools for SEO?

Several tools can help with SEO, like Google Search Console, Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz Pro, and Yoast SEO. These tools offer features like keyword research, competitor analysis, technical SEO audits, and on-page optimization suggestions.

5. How can I stay updated on future Google algorithm changes?

Follow authoritative SEO blogs and newsletters, attend industry webinars, and monitor industry news sources. Regularly audit your website and experiment with different strategies to adapt to ongoing algorithm shifts.

Conclusion: Stay Ahead of the Curve in the Dynamic Search Landscape

The May 2022 Core Update serves as a potent reminder: the world of SEO is constantly evolving. While adapting your content for this specific update is crucial, it’s just one step in the journey. To truly thrive in the long run, embrace ongoing SEO maintenance and stay ahead of future algorithm changes.

Here’s why continuous vigilance matters:

  • Google’s algorithm undergoes regular updates: The May 2022 update was just one instance. Staying informed about future changes allows you to proactively adapt and maintain your search visibility.
  • User expectations and search intent shift: What users seek and how they search continues to evolve. Staying updated helps you create content that resonates with their current needs and intent.
  • Competition is fierce: The online landscape is constantly growing. Regular SEO effort ensures you keep pace with competitors and maintain your market share.

Here’s how you can stay ahead of the curve:

  • Develop a deep understanding of SEO best practices: Invest in learning the fundamentals of SEO and stay updated on emerging trends.
  • Monitor industry news and expert insights: Follow authoritative SEO blogs, subscribe to newsletters, and attend webinars to stay informed.
  • Utilize SEO tools and resources: Leverage software and platforms that help you with keyword research, competitor analysis, technical SEO audits, and on-page optimization.
  • Conduct regular website audits: Proactively identify and address potential SEO issues before they impact your rankings.
  • Experiment and analyze: Don’t be afraid to test different strategies and track their performance to gain valuable insights and continually improve your SEO approach.

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