Google Core Update December 2020

Of course, we didn’t miss the latest Google Core update, which Google confirmed a few days ago. As always, many domains have won, others have lost. As already often described here in the blog, it is usually a data refresh of ranking data, and certain industries are also regularly considered in focus. Official information from Google can be found here. Basic theories about core updates from me can be found in the blog post about the last update in May. As always, Sistrix has a list of winners and losers, as well as a few theories about them. My advice: Feel free to analyze your competitors and yourself to see what the differences could be. However, you shouldn’t drive yourself crazy. It was often the case that the winners of one update were the losers of the other. Nevertheless, the quality of the website and the content is the top priority and can never hurt!

This blog post is an updated version of a blog post from 2014. With arrows like ↗ I show you whether a corresponding ranking factor has increased in importance ↗, increased strongly ↑, remained the same → or lost↘ since my original blog post in 2014.

Very important ranking factors in 2021

Mention of the keyword in the < title> ↗

If you include the keyword in the < title>, then you have already taken the first step towards a potentially good ranking. For me, the title is still one of the most important ranking factors a URL can have. That was already the case in 2014. The meaning of the title has felt more than it has decreased.
Keyword contained in the document →

Of course, the keyword should be included in the document. In my opinion, this factor has remained the same (high). To be honest, I haven’t seen a URL for several years where the target keyword wasn’t in the text.
The internal link ↘

Internal links are very important for the ranking of a URL. But it feels like its importance has decreased since my first version in 2014. These days, top URLs can be badly linked internally. If the signals from outside (e.g. traffic in the Google SERPs) are good, the ranking remains constant. In 2020, internal linking has more to do with crawling and less with ranking. Which, of course, does not mean that you cannot achieve better rankings through better linking.
Keyword contained in internal links →

“Google penalizes too many keyword links from external domains. However, this does not apply internally! In this respect, it is important to use the keyword internally when you link to your document. ”Was written here in 2014. This is still very important today. Internal link texts are essential for a good ranking and also have positive effects.
Authority of the linking external domains (trust) →

A link from a good domain is just as important for a specific URL today. Actually, the arrow should go down slightly. Backlinks have not become less important, but other factors are more important today – which is why their relative importance has decreased.
Document matches the keyword and various search intentions relating to the keyword are fulfilled ↑

In 2014 I wrote: “This is actually my favorite ranking factor because many SEOs grit their teeth and nothing is going on. The solution to the riddle is often: the product / landing page just doesn’t match the keyword. ”Satisfying the search intention is probably the most important factor today. Compared to 2014, it has felt enormously important. Not only that: In my opinion, it is actually the reason why most of the other factors have lost their importance. This factor will persist even after many others become obsolete. The best URL for a search result remains the best URL for a search result – and it will continue to be so in ten years’ time.

Click rate in search results ↑

It feels like the CTR has also become enormously important. As already described at several conferences this year, I do not believe that the CTR will be included directly and unfiltered in the ranking.

In a nutshell, my theory about the CTR

Google calculates the expected CTR of a result and, based on this, a quality factor for the snippet
Google measures the CTR over long distances, takes a closer look at abnormalities and updates the historical data from time to time.

Click stream ↑

We SEOs tend to always look at one search query and one click. The engineers at Google often look at a user’s search session over several days or weeks. You are interested: How was the customer journey of user 349323, who four weeks ago googled for “Canary Islands” for the first time and has now made a booking for a holiday home on La Palma today? Which websites did he visit when, where did he get information and how can this process be made even more pleasant, faster and better for user 349323 (and other users) in the future?

Google will differentiate even more here in the future – and we SEOs have to be careful here


Because: Maybe you are the provider from whom people get information. But then they book somewhere else! This is also a great danger for Google. If the algorithm only promotes the conversion-strong brands without content, then good content will die out over time – and with it the quality of the content on Google.
For shops: number of products within the document, “variety” ↗

You have no chance of getting a good ranking for the keyword “winter shoes” if you only offer two different pairs of shoes. Since the user behavior of users is becoming more and more important, this factor is also becoming more important.
Complete listing of the relevant “buzzwords”: WDF * IDF ↘

WDF * IDF was very important for a while. That’s it for any information-oriented or know search query. In the case of transaction-oriented search queries, the importance felt has decreased significantly. Other algorithms are now at work here that place great value on user experience and other things. Text is still important on category pages of online shops, for example, but not as important as in a guide article. At least that’s my impression.
Uniqueness of the content compared to other websites (no duplicate content) ↗

Duplicate content was and is something that Google absolutely doesn’t like. In 2014 there were still many websites that aggregated content, such as social bookmarking platforms such as or – both are no longer online today. When it comes to price comparisons and fashion shopping clubs, Google reacted quite clearly and mercilessly punished those who could not prove a good user experience.
Uniqueness of the content compared to other documents in the same domain (recurring text modules) ↘

Duplicate content can also be a problem within a domain. Google writes:

“Minimize recurring text modules: Instead of adding extensive copyright notices at the end of each page, you can just provide a short summary with a link to detailed information.”

In 2014, recurring text modules were still a big problem. In 2020 they are no longer such a huge issue. But that may also have something to do with web design trends. A lot of text is no longer “in” today, there are simply fewer and fewer recurring text modules.
Document loading speed ↑

The loading speed has also been a public trend topic on Google for years. She is high on the Search Quality Team’s agenda. Probably one of the biggest factors in search dissatisfaction is when a website loads. This factor will increase when the Google Core Web Vitals are included in the ranking in May 2021. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t do everything slavishly to land perfectly on Google Pagespeed 100. This tool is just one help of many – most of it makes up the actual user experience.

File size of the document ↑

“In 2014 we usually had 30% mobile access to our website. Those who use excessively large images annoy mobile users and thus also create bad user signals. So it is very important not simply to downscale images in mobile versions, but to make them available in a smaller file size. ”As you know, mobile access has continued to increase and today it is usually the case that more mobile users than desktop users visit your website come. This factor has also increased accordingly – Mobile First!
Response time / speed of the server →

That was important back in 2014 and is just as important today. You need a fast server with a good connection.
Number of other documents on the same topic on the domain (= subject-specific domain vs. domain with many other topics) ↘

I find the point very interesting! In 2014 it said: “Google often has quite a bit of prejudice when it comes to domains. In this way, Computerbild manages to rank well on every PC topic, while it is unlikely to have great success even with an excellent article in the fashion sector. Google divides entire domains thematically and ranks the documents accordingly. So stay true to your topic! “
This point has changed enormously and in a number of ways

When it comes to medical issues, the whole thing has become much more extreme. Only a few, really verified domains still have a chance of good rankings.
The rest of it has softened a bit, I would say. Computerbild actually ranks for keywords like “Flaconi voucher code”, “Treadmill test” and others, even if the focus is of course heavily on technology. Google no longer felt such a strong preference like “a technology website should only rank for technology”. The quality of content is now much more checked at the URL level. By means of new analyzes, but also by measuring performance in the search results.

The content is visible “Front and Center” ↑

In my opinion, this has become even more important.
The document is clear and easy to read – subheadings and paragraphs are sensible ↑

A good document structure has become even more important. Something else has also changed: While in 2014 you could shovel almost everything onto a URL with holistic landing pages that you can only imagine on a certain topic, this strategy is no longer effective in 2020. Too much unnecessary content can be harmful. The pillar page is a bit of the opposite concept, but in my opinion just the replacement of one buzzword by the next. 😀 Hence my tip: Orient yourself to the user and what he would like to find in his search session for keyword X – try to prepare this content as well as possible – on a URL.
Topic relevance of the external linking domains →

This factor has remained the same, although, as already mentioned, the backlinks factor has not gained in importance overall (other factors certainly).
Number and quality of the links within the document ↘

In 2020 you should also link good sources within your URL or point out further content. But it felt like it subsided. Fewer webmasters link to external sources, that’s just a trend. External links are made all the more via social media.

Number of pictures and videos ↗

Change compared to 2014: Not only the number, but also the quality now plays a major role. The quality is measured by the user behavior. It is quite possible to rank in a contested topic without a lot of content if you have a great video on the topic.
Up-to-dateness of the document (“Query deserves Freshness”) →

In 2014 it said: “Some search queries are given the abbreviation“ QDF ”in the algorithm. These are keywords that not only have to deliver good search results, but for which the search results should also be very up-to-date. Examples are search queries for news, but also for “Iphone”. Because even a very strongly linked page to the Iphone 4 is no longer what users are looking for. When searching for “Iphone”, the majority of users want to know something about the Iphone 6. More information on this at Sistrix. “- Nothing has changed about that, except for the versions of the Iphones. 😉
Less important ranking factors
Number of keyword repetitions in the document →

Keyword density is almost as old as search engines. In 2020 it is still necessary that you do not mention the keyword just once in the text, but possibly several times. But that usually comes up automatically with good content.

Keyword is contained in the description →

If the keyword is included in the description, it will be written in bold when searching for the keyword, thus increasing the click rate.
Filename of the document keyword.html ↘

The same applies to the file name of the document. But it is also important: Many external links only show the URL and no keyword. If you are linked with, that is better than with With the first you have the keyword in the link text, with the second you don’t!
Number of words in the document ↘

2014: “In the Searchmetrics Ranking Factors Study 2014, Marcus Tober found that Google is increasingly tending towards long documents. It is also clear: a document on ranking factors with over 2,000 words is probably more extensive than one on the same topic with 200 words. I think that the topic is also important here, but in principle it is correct: the more words, the better the ranking. At least up to a certain length. ”As I said, Google initially tightened this trend until they then rolled backwards in 2018/19, see the point above“ The document is clear ”.
Headings & Keyword included in the heading →

Of course, Google likes it when a document is logically well structured. However, headings are far less important than you might think. Google can now recognize graphic text markups and sees it when certain words are larger or smaller than others. The keyword should appear in the main heading, in small sub-headings I would rather go into related terms and especially terms within the semantic environment (WDF * IDF). This text from 2014 can be left as it is in 2020.
Number of external links from different domains ↘

“Until mid-2012, that was the most important ranking factor, at least for a domain. In 2014 (almost as early as 2015) this factor is no longer so important. It depends on the quality of the web pages that link to the document. Many documents are not necessarily suitable for links either. ”This factor weakened even more in 2020, especially at the URL level.
Keyword contained in external links ↘

Hardly anyone will work with external keyword links in 2021. So that has decreased.

As already mentioned, these were the ranking factors when looking at a document individually (without its domain). New factors weren’t really added, but many were refined and some gained in importance and others lost. Quality is viewed and evaluated much more on a URL basis