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Understanding the Buzz around Google’s May 2021 Update

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Executive Summary

  • Google recently confirmed that the page experience update has been postponed to be rolled out in mid-June instead of May
  • Some of the key areas that will be focused on in this update are: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  • As long as you have your focus areas addressed, there is a good chance that you’ll sail through this update reasonably unscathed.

If you read Google's mission statement, you will find that the company is dedicated to organizing and delivering the most relevant and reliable information to its users. So if we put Google and its evolution under the microscope, we can often find significant patterns that highlight their commitment to:

  • Improve search experience (Cross-platform)

  • Provide accurate and reliable information

  • Filter spam, incorrect and misleading information and websites that promote them

  • Enhance creator-consumer accessibility

And the way they do this is through various tweaks and updates to their search crawlers and algorithms to assess millions of data quickly, and accurately. These tweaks and changes are commonly known as "Google Updates." These updates are often loved and hated, depending on the side of the fence you're on, but it's a part of life as long as you operate online. While there are other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, or DuckDuckGo available online, we all know that Google tops them all when it comes to usability and search accuracy.

Core Updates

Google is known to make as many as 9-10 updates every day, contributing to proper search functionality and experience. However, every now and then, Google throws a curveball by releasing "core updates" that significantly impact website rankings and indexability. These core updates are the ones that are most discussed and have the biggest impact on high fluctuation in rankings, traffic, listings, visibility, and clicks. for any website. I'm sure you remember some of these critical updates like Panda, Penguin, Fred, Medic, etc., that were revolutionary to the extent that they made most marketers and Search Marketing professionals rethink their playbooks to retain their website performance. One of the most useful tools that we often use to identify if there is any change to the algorithms is Moz cast, which often indicates SERP fluctuations in “temperature” (frequencies of changes in ranking positions of a sample list of websites on aggregate)



December 2020

Before we understand the speculations around the ongoing May 2021 Update, we need to look at another significant update that Google launched in December 2020. The December Update mainly focussed on

  • Content alignment with EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) as per their January update.

  • Contextual backlinks and their relevance to the sites

  • Emphasis and evaluation of informational and relevant content with particular focus on Music, Health, Legal, News, and Ecommerce industries, amongst others.

During this update, we saw a massive fluctuation of website positions, CTRs, and a dip in traffic for websites that were either poorly optimized or had many low-quality, irrelevant backlinks, and content.


Here is an instance from SEMRush for one of our clients who had approached us in January 2021, citing a drastic drop in their business. When we evaluated their website and looked at their web vitals, we could clearly see how they fell from 21-22K visits per month to 13-14K visits.

During the December update, all the SEO forums and resource hubs were speculating and offering some indications about the May update. Our independent research could pinpoint that the December update was only a possible teaser to what the May update could bring to the table. It is supposed to focus on Core Web Vitals, which deals with the following areas primarily

  • Website and Page Speed

  • CX, UI and UX of the website

May 2021 - The Debate

Google recently confirmed that the page experience update has been postponed to be rolled out in mid-June instead of May, as previously speculated.

However, even if the update is postponed, there have been recent additions of page experience filters and reports in the Google Search Console, which confirms the previously speculated news about Google's May Update focus areas.



Focus and Impact

Some of the key areas that will be focused on in this update are:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

  2. First Input Delay (FID)

  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

  4. News article inclusion in Google Carousel - This is a new entry to the carousel list that Google typically populates with products, movies, games, and other popular consumer products.



  1. Removal of AMP Badge - The AMP badge is now going to be removed from the searches that appear on Google’s SERP.

These features combined would ensure users get the most reliable and stable experience while surfing on Google SERP. The Page Experience and Web Vitals report would also enable marketers to reevaluate the websites based on these parameters and take care of any issues before the rollout is complete to avoid any significant performance issues.

What to Expect

All of the aforementioned factors may seem too technical for the average reader, but if you have a website and are looking to dominate page 1 of Google, then this is the right time to start consulting your SEO/SEM partners to help evaluate and optimize your website so that your site doesn't see any significant setbacks once the update is rolled out. It is normal to see some movement and fluctuations in your current rankings, during a rollout (and no rollout is perfect). But as long as you have your focus areas addressed, there is a good chance that you’ll sail through this update reasonably unscathed. If you're looking for someone to help you navigate this update, schedule a free website audit today!

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