google december 20 core update impact on health websites revival strategy

Google December ’20 CORE UPDATE: Impact On Health Websites + Revival Strategy

What We Know So Far :

Google rolled out its December 2020 core update at around 1 pm ET on December 3, 2020. It was a global update & not specific to any particular language, region, or website niche. It is the reason why it’s called “Board Core Update.”

As far as the timing is concerned, this update was done after thanksgiving season, cyber Monday & black Friday. For some of those who hit sales during December, this update can be devastating to their businesses.

The impact of this update was at its peak on December 6 & the full impact of the update was felt by December 17. Finally, the planned rollout was finished several days before Christmas.

Out of several niches being affected by the Google core algorithm December update 2020, we aim to study the most impacted Health & wellness niche. 

Furthermore, Out of the ever-expanding Health & Wellness niche, one particular sub-niche that saw huge fluctuation was cannabis.

Since many cannabis websites saw huge gains or declines, ranging from 10% to 100% of their previously recorded organic search traffic, it would be best to dig out the factor responsible for such impact.

Some Insights about google core update:

  1. Some immediate movements in rankings are observed in websites related to health, music, e-commerce & news.
  2. A pattern of the shift in keyword movement is still yet to be discovered.
  3. Several Medical & health websites have witnessed significant drops.
  4. Music-related websites have seen both Major increases & declines.
  5. Initially, the rollout was in the US; today, many websites outside the US show significant fluctuations in the keyword rankings.

What to do Immediately after a Google Core Update?

After an update has rolled out, within the first 48 hours, check your website for the following things;

  1. Google Analytics stats for immediate drop or rise in traffic.
  2. SEO audit for checking on keywords that have significantly lost or gained rankings

Impact of Google Update on Various Industries:

Since the December google update was a broad one, it has impacted various industries. Here we have grouped together with the winners & losers by industries.


As per Semrush Data, the Beauty, business, fitness, internet & telecom industries have witnessed a great surge in their organic traffic.

graph of distribution of winning domains by categories

Here we were surprised to see organic ranking movements in some of the business & internet websites like, Linkedin & Whitepages. These websites were ranging anywhere between positions 50-65 & post update their organic rankings shifted to positions 10 to 15.

Now that’s called a Google Update Blessing.


As per Semrush domains from the news, shopping, health & Wellness witnessed major drops in their organic rankings.

graph of distribution of losing domains by categories

Impact of Google Update on Cannabis Websites:

Now since we have had an overview of various industries, let’s dig deeper into what we have for the cannabis niche.

For this, we’ll measure the magnitude at which top 100 US cannabis websites ranking on High volume buyer keywords like CBD oil for sale have been impacted.

The key indicators used for our study are :

  • Organic Traffic
  • Organic Keywords
  • Referring domains
  • Keyword Ranking

For comparison & further analysis, we compared ranking & overall website traffic from November 30, 2020, to that of December 30, 2020.

analyzation of new keywords traffic and december organic traffic

Upon comparing 30 domains ranking for the keyword “CBD oil for sale” with the country being the United States, we can say that Cannabis sites show a downward trend in overall traffic websites.

Winners :

We recorded all websites’ keyword movements and analyzed the top 5 websites that have changed positions in the top 20 SERPs.

Here’s a list of the top 5 winners on the keyword “ CBD oil for sale.

data as per ahref of top 5 winners

Data as per Ahrefs

Why were these websites positively impacted from December Google Update 2020?

Well, the exact answer to this question is with google. Still, we’ve figured out some common points that may help in analyzing some insights about their winning.

  1. Less drop in total Organic Keywords from Nov 2020 to Dec 2020
  2. Better On-Page interlinking
  3. More Content on Homepage

Losers :

Here we’ve analyzed keyword movements of 5 least performing websites that lost keyword positions in the top 20 SERPs.

Here’s a list of the top 5 losers on the keyword “ CBD oil for sale.”

data as per ahref of top 5 losers

Data as per Ahrefs

Why were these websites negatively impacted by December Google Update 2020?

  1. Thin website Content
  2. Keyword stuffing
  3. Dip in referring domains observed
  4. Dip in organic traffic & referring domains

Possible Revival Strategies from Google Core Update :

Update your content Frequently:

One key mistake the majority of websites are making is not updating their old content. Some people think that adding a few sentences to their previously published content updates the content as per google norms, but it is not true. 

When I say, the update means adding a handful of new insights, paragraphs, deleting old & irrelevant information & even rewriting entire articles to make them more meaningful & updated. Interestingly, that’s what Wikipedia continually does.

Here are some tips for updating the content:

  1. Sort the content according to relevance. If you find it less meaningful,301 redirect it to the most relevant URL or either delete the content.
  2. Step by step instructions, infographics work the best. If you have existing content with it, consider including them in your content.
  3. Avoid poor user experience by fixing dead links.
  4. Make your content easy to understand; remove any complex terms.
  5. If your content addresses a particular problem, consider visiting quora, searching for the latest fix, and incorporating it into your content.

Fix Thin Content:

After going through more than 100 cannabis websites, what I found was that almost 40% of websites had at least one page containing thin content ( Low word count ). 

Websites with thin content have a chance of being affected by Google Core Updates.

I saw more than 22 cannabis websites with almost the same DR & organic traffic, but the least ranking websites contain more than 4 thin pages.

Here are some tips to correct this Issue:

  1. Add more content to the Pages by including buyer intent information
  2. Add Faq section whenever required
  3. Optimize landing pages for detailed information & buyer keywords

Fix SEO Errors :

When we dug through the Ahrefs data of cannabis websites, we noticed that websites with more SEO errors were deeply impacted. 

When a google Core Update strikes your website, these errors define the intensity with which your website would be impacted.

For example, websites with duplicate meta descriptions & title tags witnessed a huge dip in traffic.


Analyzing what happened in google update is quite a tricky thing to answer. We can assume that something linked to natural language processing or Artificial intelligence might have been redefined.  

Maintaining Google’s  EAT guidelines & focussing on content remains an essential part of any update. Even if you introduce some of the possible revival strategies listed above, there is still no guarantee that your website will be impacted positively or negatively. 

We, as webmasters, need to understand that each update is different. Since Google aims to create the best user experience for the people browsing, we should also need to update our website regularly & make it more user-friendly. 

Remember, SEO is about providing a better user experience than your industry competitors. If you keep user experience first & all other factors later, you’ll do better than your competitors during google algorithm updates.

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