Final diagnosis of the May 2020 Google algorithm update

In this video

  • A 60 second super cut of what happened in search this week

  • Final diagnosis of the May 2020 algorithm update - Early speculation appears to suggest that it a roll back to pure page rank with many thinking that machine learning will kick in and start altering the SERPs even more over the coming weeks.

  • Common but avoidable javascript indexing mistakes from Google Engineer Martin Splitt

  • New search console reports and Bug’s in Google discover

  • Lastly, we diagnose Google’s response to a webmaster saying that 50% of their traffic is gone due to dodgy links - We get Craig Campbell opinion on this, as well as how to protect from Negative SEO from a SEMRush representative

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- So how do you get an SEO to show you their "O" face?

- Oh, oh, oh!

- Well it's really simple, you just give them some free back links. Unless you're the guy on a recent Webmaster Hangout who was complaining to John Miller about losing 50% of their traffic due to bad links. One minute you're buying high DA links from a vendor and your traffic's soaring, next minute--

- It's gone, it's all gone.

- In this week's Canonical Chronicle we will be diving into a 60 second super cut of what happened this week in search. The final diagnosis of the May 2020 algorithm update. Some common but avoidable JavaScript mistakes from Google engineer Martin Splitt, as well as some search console bugs and Google Discover bugs. And lastly, we're gonna jump into Google's response to that Webmaster saying 50% of their traffic's gone due to dodgy links. As always, this week's news is available as a slide deck, just sign up to the Canonical Chronicle newsletter, to sign up for free. So without further adieu, let's get into it. For all you internet babies out there with an attention span of a PPC consultant, here's what happened this week in search. 60 seconds on the clock. The 2020 algorithm update has now finished rolling out and I think I can speak for all SEOs when I say, "Thank God for that." Early speculation appears to suggest that it's a rollback to pure pay train with many thinking that machine learning is gonna start to kick in and alter the search even more in the coming weeks. All good, more instability. Martin Splitt was also interviewed this week on Search Engine Live by Buddy Schwartz. Here's the main takeaways from the interview. He said don't try and invent the SEO wheel. A fast, technically sound site with good content and links is essentially the SEO formula. When it comes to JavaScript, reduce complexity as much as possible. Don't build work arounds for basic things. Just do the basic things. And one of the things he also said was sometimes, don't use JavaScript at all, and the entire SEO community were like . There's also a new report in search console for guided recipes. So you can now mark up recipe guides, debug all of that mark up right inside of search console. How exciting, right?

- I don't care.

- Also, quick heads up if you've noticed your Google Discover traffic is having a bit of a wobble, that's because of a logging internal issue that Google are having. They're trying to fix it but, expect your data to be out for at least a couple of weeks. Okay, now onto the main event. In a Webmaster Hangout this week, someone asked John Miller the following.

- Over the past few weeks I've noticed steady increasing number of back links and search console from two domains to my website. From these two domains, every single page on my website is linked about two to three times, accumulating more than 500 back links over the past four to eight weeks.

- He goes onto say that he experienced a 50% traffic drop at the time of discovering these links. Now, John doesn't really have enough information to like properly diagnose it, but he essentially says, Google will work it out, just ignore it. And to be honest with you, I would tend to agree with that. But, let's do what SEOs do best and hypothesise about something with absolutely no data to back it up.

- You smell that?

- Huh?

- Smells like bullshit.

- Okay, so the guy is asking John and he's saying like, these links are actually coming from an empty page.

- Looking at the originating URLs in search console, I saw that these originating URLs from two domains are empty pages.

- So, instantly all the black hats then were like, I know what's going on. This is good old referrer spam. So back in the day you would use something called a pineback and referrer spam to get links on these traffic logging sites, and this is exactly what this is. They've kind of spiffed the link and Google bot's picking it up to think that it's genuine. So, absolutely nothing to worry about, fine to ignore. However, let's assume for a second that maybe it is actually spam link building. So if someone builds 500 links to your site in 48 hours, does it have a negative effect? Well, I reached out to my favourite dodgy bastard, Mr. Craig Campbell to get his opinion.

- It's negative as you would think. I mean map it is yes. Anything that you can do to manipulate a search engine in a positive manner can be done the exact same way in reverse and you can cause a lot of damage to people's websites. Obviously Google are not going to confirm that that is a thing but if you use any kind of common sense and you can manipulate things in a positive manner, then you can also do it in a negative manner.

- And there we have it. Craig taking the black hat thing very literally, as he's actually wearing a hat that is black. Okay, so negative SEO is probably a thing but how do we protect against it? Well, you need to keep an eye out on something called toxic links on a regular basis and make sure you're disavowing them. Remember this isn't gonna be a one off event. It's gonna be something that's gonna be ongoing. So I'd recommend a tool that sends you alerts if it discovers any toxic links so you can keep disavowing them. Lots of tools out there, Caribou, Link Research Tools, and of course the SEMrush Back Link Checker. For ongoing maintenance, I prefer the SEMrush tool just because of the notifications but for like hardcore heavy lifting, it's definitely Link Research Tools or Caribou. Here's what one of the experts at SEMrush had to say about it.

- To protect against toxic or unnatural links, I suggest using SEMrush Back Link audit tool. And I strongly recommend to add Google search console integration to keep all the link data in one place. Then inside the tool, you will have toxic score for research link, authority score, referral traffic, and all the important metrics to evaluate the quality of a link. And then, you can send it to the disavow tool, we'll send a removal request to the website home there right from the back link audit tool.

- So, there you have it. If you see bad links, probably disavow them. Or, should you? I actually made what I now consider a mistake by asking Twitter, does anyone even use the disavow tool? And this is what they had to say. Okay, so I tweeted out and asked anyone out there that doesn't believe in using the disavow tool? My good friend Chris came back and said, don't care. Thanks, Chris. Super valuable input. Jerry White says he wouldn't use it much. So, Joe is a friend of mine who works in the gambling niche amongst many things. And he says he's done quite a few over the years, so that's an interesting thing we'd want to pick up on. But most people as we're going through this are saying like, if it's a small amount of links, don't bother. Some people are actually saying that using the disavow has a bad effect on the rankings. And one person actually went as far as to say that, well actually I remove a lot of the disavows when I first get an SEO client. Now, there's one person in particular that I'm gonna listen to above all else and that is Mr. Chris Cemper. The reason being, he is the owner of Link Research Tools. He must have seen literally billions of what you would call spam links. And he says, there's a few SEO gods who only used it once in their life, yes. There's a few Google employees who don't use it on their personal website, yes. But otherwise, dot, dot, dot. Now. This guy has processed literally hundreds of thousands of disavow files with his tool. So if he's saying you should use it, you probably should. Now, looking at the consensus of the community, typically don't bother using it unless you have a manual penalty or you're under attack from a negative SEO attack. Otherwise, yeah it's pretty smart to use it. That's everything for this week's Canonical Chronicle. If you would like this week's news in a slide deck form, you can get it by simply subscribing to our newsletter at If you liked this video, please like it. If you loved it, please subscribe. And until next time, we will see you later.