December 2020 Core Update - How to recover

Have you been affected by the December 2020 Core Update?

Many, many sites have seen severe drops.

I've seen sites lose as much as 85% of their traffic,
practically overnight.

In this article, I'll be covering

  • the main insights from the SEO industry
  • examples of sites that have won and lost
  • my personal suggestions on how to recover from this update

If you have been affected by the Google May 2020 Core Update we have an article with tips to recover traffic.

2 things you should know about Core Updates

  • Core Updates are "millions of baby updates" like Glenn Gabe cites Google here, which indicates we should not expect to find one thing that will fix everyting
  • For sites affected by a core update, it takes improvements overall on the entire site, and sometimes a new CORE update to get their traffic back up (which, at times, takes a while ... the last update had been in May 2020, and there was no other core update until December 3rd this year) - refer to my "buckets" metaphor further down below for more info about that.

A site that got hit

One of the sites that got hit hard is a site where, even before we got it in for an audit at the end of November, I had pointed out a big risk based on its poor usability and only having one URL bringing in > 80% of all traffic.

This is what happened to this poor affiliate - time to re-invent the site and build it back up:

Here's another one we just got in for a site audit after the site completely tanked on Dec. 3rd 2020:

Other sites, I'm happy to see winning big time - an ongoing effort in SEO, and filling all the buckets, really pays off:

Here's my take:

Something I've been preaching for years has shown to be true in all latest core updates: user experience counts!

A lot!

A few podcast episodes ago, I just talked about this with Greg Merrilees from Studio1Design as well - good design and user experience is worth much more than just a "cool look" - it decides whether people like and trust your content ... heck, sometimes they won't even read your headline if they don't like your site, which then creates negative signals Google picks up over time and acts on them.

Especially I'd take into account your site's mobile user experience: Google is crawling the web as a mobile phone (mobile-first), so do yourself a favor and get into the habit of using your mobile phone whenever you test or check out your site - you'll find a lot of usability obstacles and user experience flaws you can easily fix, and which is going to make sure Google picks up more positive signals from users.

Fill all the buckets

Good SEO requires you to fill all the buckets: There's a bucket for great content, there's. bucket for good design, a bucket for user experience, site speed, navigation, usability, internal linking, E-A-T, and more.


  • Miss one of the important buckets and your site will not rank (and maybe tank).
  • There's a hole in those buckets, you need to refill them (revisit that topic) on an ongoing basis to stay ahead of the curve

If your site got hit by this or another CORE update, and you'd like me to check out your site, e-mail me your domain and I'll be happy to take a look!

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