There is no escaping the volatile nature of the SEO industry. One month you may be dealing with a major algorithm update, and the next month you could be dealing with shifts in your overall strategy. But by looking back at May 2022 in SEO, you can figure out what’s happening, why it could be happening, and ensure that you adjust your strategy as necessary.
It’s also possible to determine why you may have lost rankings and traffic, if you are suffering through this loss.
By analyzing what happened over the course of the past month, unless you are already keeping up with the news, you could gain additional insight to help you in your SEO campaigns.
Here, starting at the beginning of the month, are the biggest news stories in SEO for the month of May:
Google’s John Mueller Changes Hangouts Format
The beginning of the month, on May 2nd, saw major changes to John Mueller’s hangouts format. Where before it would be a weekly thing, and everyone who could join would join, it has now turned into a once-a-month affair.
This began after he was on hiatus for most of the month of April.
John explained that “for this session, I want to try something slightly different.” He also added that he may try different variations of the format over time to see what works best.
He added that he wanted to focus the recorded session on submitted questions.
John also explained that the reasons for the change are twofold. The first: that it makes things easier for SEO professionals to digest, and the second: it helps him and other Googlers to better “prepare for these sessions.”
He also said that for questions that are too specific or lead too far off-topic for the submitted questions, that he recommends going to the help forums for these.
Google Discover Adds Long Tap
Glenn Gabe spotted an announcement on Twitter that Google Discover is adding long tap in order to preview web stories on the iOS version of Google Chrome.
If you’re interested in Google Discover, this is an update that focuses on adding some user experience improvements to iOS Chrome for Google’s web stories.
Interested in Discover? Google just launched “long tap to preview” functionality in Discover in Chrome on iOS. Long tap the story & you see a preview of the article, you can open in a new tab, incognito, or add to your reading list. Again, it’s just in Chrome for iOS (for now). pic.twitter.com/Ac6FPurDE8
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) April 30, 2022
Major Algorithm Update Leads May 2022 in SEO
Although smaller Google updates happen every day, there are certain types of Google updates that have far-reaching consequences across the entire organic search ecosystem.
One of these are core updates. Usually, core updates, which are regularly announced by Google, have significant ramifications to site quality as a whole.
Clearly, however, we now know that this particular update was not a core update. Instead, it was simply a major algorithm update with the usual industry-wide signals happening.
Here’s a look at some of the industry chatter over on the forums:
Extremely low numbers across all sites for me today almost as though my analytical program is broken / not working …
Global site with 6 consecutive days averaging 126.3%, lowest day 110%.
Saturdays and Sundays I usually expect about 66% of my weekday average, yesterday I was 38%, the last date I had a similar number was 25th December 2021 at 37%. Yes, my quietest day of the year.
So far today, after 10.5 hrs, I’m at 28.3% … Something’s happened / changed / been “manipulated”, again.
indeed lower numbers today. This is an inverse from my typical Sunday. Existing user interaction has increased though. New users are far fewer than it should be.
Non commerce research site had a rank increase. 3x impression rate with added traffic. Increase of keyword base. Near 200 keyword sets at position 10 and above now.
Other sites are the same.
Today we see a new dropt of -50% so far the biggest drop since panda algo launched years ago. It is creasy because we do have a lot of #1-#3 spots but it seems to mean nothing. We see our descriptions coming up in a lot of featured snippets ( so it should be a trusted source). What we are missing is business traffic. So before this quality update we had a lot of business traffic. It seems that all traffic from those source are completely directed to google ads.
I see absolutely stellar gains – search traffic is up 49%(450,000 visitors) over last month on an old site but it’s the newer content doing the heavy lifting. This site has remained unaffected by updates since 2009 so site age alone is not likely a problem.
Initially Monday was not looking good for me yet finished at 103.3%, Tuesday started in a similar vein but ended with 113.7%, today seems to have started well and nearly at 50% already … fingers crossed.
Traffic sources have been normal with the USA down a couple of points.
What I have seen is a bizarre 4 paid for clicks, 2 x USA, 1 x Belgium, 1 x UK.
wow… huge drop today… all right, let’s go again 😐
Google Now Offers SEO Certification
Google has said, historically, that they would never offer any SEO certifications.
However, in early May, things clearly changed and Google offered up a digital marketing certification course.
This certification course also offers, surprise — SEO certification as part of its course curriculum.
Part of this came under scrutiny by much of the SEO community, however, when things like Keyword Density and content word count came up as viable SEO metrics.
So much so, that a few days later, Google removed these metrics along with the slide that discussed them in the course.
Google Search Tested Infinite Scroll on Desktop Results
For anyone following this particular aspect of Google updates, Google has tested infinite scroll on desktop before in the past.
Several times, actually. In fact, they have tested this as far back as 2011 and 2015.
What Google is planning on doing with this particular aspect of Google search is anyone’s guess at this point.
But it’s still interesting that they began testing infinite scroll again.
Bing Talks About SEO for Subscription-Based and Paywall Content
On May 2, Fabrice Canel posted a blog post that discussed best practices for subscription-based and paywalled content.
Google handles paywall content using something called “flexible sampling.” Flexible sampling exists in a couple of formats, which include metering and lead-in formats.
What metering does is it provides users with a certain quota of free articles they can consume, after which paywalls will then begin showing up.
Lead-in is something that offers a portion of an article’s content without it being shown in full.
When it comes to Bing SEO, Bing explains that they want you to detect that BingBot is attempting to get subscription-based and paywall content. Then, they want you to give BingBot full access to the content.
In this case, Bing wants you to show Bing all the content and show users only a portion of this content.
Bing also says that this is a perfectly acceptable practice and does not count as cloaking.
New Search Features for Google Travel Search
May 2nd also saw Google announcing some brand-new search features for travel search.
These types of features impacted flights, hotels, destinations of interest, and much more.
The goal of these features is to “get inspired and research your options so you can book with ease when the time is right.”
Among the new features that Google added includes:
- Tracking flight prices for any travel dates you might have,
- Google Maps interest layers,
- Adding a pink dot to the map to “explore nearby,”
- New button for hotels/rentals in hotel search.
New Google Search User Interface Tests
Early May also saw Google continuing with tests on its mobile search user interfaces with a few new variations of grid search results and full width video search result snippets.
Brian Fraiesleben was the SEO professional who discovered this on Twitter:
Here’s another variation of grid formatted search results test I spotted last week.
— Brian Freiesleben (@type_SEO) May 1, 2022
Google’s Annual Ads Safety Report
Early May also saw some nice accomplishments from the Google side, with Google publishing its annual “Ads Safety Report.”
Google disclosed that it successfully blocked or removed over 3-4 billion ads that violated its Google ads policies.
It also restricted over 5.7 billion ads, suspended over 5.6 million advertiser accounts, and successfully removed ads from over 1.7 billion pages in 2021.
All of their numbers increased. The only exception was because of the number of ads that were restricted.
And the number of accounts that were suspended actually skyrocketed this year.
“As the digital world evolves, our policy development and enforcement strategies evolve with it—helping to prevent abuse while allowing businesses to reach new customers and grow. We’ve continued to invest in our policies, teams of experts and enforcement technology to stay ahead of potential threats. In 2021, we introduced a multi-strike system for repeat policy violations. We added or updated over 30 policies for advertisers and publishers including a policy prohibiting claims that promote climate change denial and a certification for U.S.-based health insurance providers to only allow ads from government exchanges, first-party providers and licensed third-party brokers.
In 2021, we removed over 3.4 billion ads, restricted over 5.7 billion ads and suspended over 5.6 million advertiser accounts. We also blocked or restricted ads from serving on 1.7 billion publisher pages, and took broader site-level enforcement action on approximately 63,000 publisher sites.”
Video and Image Sitemap Extension Tags and Google
Google posted an announcement on their official blog that, beginning on August 6, 2022, they are no longer going to support video and image sitemap extension tags.
They said “Upon evaluating the value of the Google sitemap extension tags, we decided to officially deprecate some tags and attributes, and remove them from our documentation.”
After this date, Google said that these tags are no longer going to have an impact on indexing and search features.
Also, they may likely send a Google Search Console notification to sites that are using these particular search features.
Their announcement, in a nutshell:
Upon evaluating the value of the Google sitemap extension tags, we decided to officially deprecate some tags and attributes, and remove them from our documentation. The deprecated tags will have no effect on indexing and search features after August 6, 2022.
If you are a sitemap plugin developer or manage your own sitemaps, there’s no immediate action required; you can leave these tags and attributes in place without drawbacks. In the future, Search Console may show warnings once these updates are included in the next schema versions of the Image and Video extensions.
Mother’s Day Weekend Search Algorithm Update
There were major fluctuations in overall rankings and traffic among Google Search during the Mother’s Day weekend.
Barry Schwartz reported that he was seeing significant SEO forum chatter along with very high volatility in the search results from May 6th – 8th.
Some of the forum comments that Barry referenced:
Things simply do not “feel” right this month however my “feelings” do not agree with my traffic:
1-5 May 115.3% 6 May so far 50.7% with 12 hours remaining of my Googleday.
Noticeably my traffic this month is well ahead from India and down from the USA. I always get quantity traffic from India since we’re a 50-year-old Anglo-Indian company plus India is one of the top 3 global sources for my widgets.
Same here. Yesterday normal, today 58% down so far.
My USA traffic also way down today… down 45% at 11:30am. Check your stats for previous Fridays. I am seeing this huge drop in USA traffic every single Friday like clockwork. Meanwhile plenty of Peru, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Iran, etc…
Another big drop at around ~1 AM GMT, all my sites affected, not just the usual suspect (the much tormented senior site).
I’m experiencing a lot of the same, particularly very unnatural traffic patterns. Through the week, where I would expect to get consistent visitors, there’s been hours and hours of nothingness. Today – a Sunday – I’ve had loads of traffic in the early hours. What’s that all about?! No conversions on the back of it though. Now, on some days, up to 40% of my traffic comes from other search engines.
Google Offered More Insight On the Product Reviews Update
Around mid-May, Google offered some unique and specific insights into what the product reviews update could possibly entail.
Googler Alan Kent posted some new information on this update on Twitter , suggesting that websites that do not add significantly new information to product reviews could be targeted by this particular update.
“Another way to think about it is does the review contribute new information to the body of knowledge about the product? I could test a car tire using a machine instead of on my own car. But just repeating the specs from the tire website with different words adds nothing.”
Glenn Gabe also posted the following, with even more of a deep dive analysis into the Google Product Reviews update:
Interested in the Product Reviews Update? My latest post covers analysis of the March 2022 PRU, including linking to multiple sellers, using video (even if not original), PRU loopholes, intent shifts, dueling machine learning algos, testing labs, the power of links, & more: https://t.co/WLs7dC6Tuz
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) May 3, 2022
Google Adds “Others Are Asking” Prompt to Google Maps
Historically, Google has always had a lot of questions and answers within Google Maps business listings.
Now, Google has updated the maps interface with a new carousel called “others are asking.”
This shows questions in a carousel format, which shows a link to “answer this question.”
There is new changes I notice in google map Q & A.
➡️In google map now also can see in Question and Answer section “Other Asking” (pending answer) and “Answered Questions”.
➡️In simple term google has bifurcate pending questioned and answered questions.https://t.co/FPTvltceL3pic.twitter.com/Xlr2ucfR2P
— Khushal Bherwani (@b4k_khushal) May 10, 2022
Ad Formats Being Tested With Swipeable Images Carousel
Google also expanded their ad testing with a brand-new ad format. They appear to have been testing a new format that has very large images that you can swipe through, and this will let you find out more about these images.
Although this was being tested, is Google going to actually launch it? That’s the real question here.
Even though some new formats may not make it to the final Google UX, it gives us an idea into their thinking and how they may be proceeding with additional formats, not only for ads but also for Google Search as a whole.
Google > Mobile > Dark Mode
I saw a carousel of Ads (brand specific) displayed in a new way (in a squared container) with a CTA “Shop now” + the Ad label had the name of the brand (right next to it).
— Saad AK (@SaadAlikhan1994) May 10, 2022
New “Popular Destination Carousel” Added to Google Search
Valentin Pletzer reported on Twitter spotting a brand-new “popular destination carousel” in the wild on Google search.
It’s possible to spot this when you utilize queries such as [country+tourism]. For example, something like [japanese tourism] or [chinese tourism]
— Valentin Pletzer (@VorticonCmdr) May 11, 2022
Indeed, as of this writing, it looks like “Popular destinations” has been replaced with “Top sights in…”
Google Search Console and Data Collection
If a site is not verified, or verification is removed, it’s well known that Google Search console will stop collecting all-important traffic and rankings data.
However, did you know that if you don’t use Google Search Console all that much, it also stops collecting data?
John Mueller explained on Twitter that “when Google sees that the data’s not being useful (nobody using it), then we do stop collecting after a while. I don’t think there’s any specific time on that though.”
He also explained later that “If it is verified and not used at all for a really long time, to me, that seems safe to pause too.” He said in his opinion, “it’s better to put the processing “budget” into things that are known to be useful.”
Yeah, when Google sees that the data’s not being useful (nobody using it), then we do stop collecting after a while. I don’t think there’s any specific time on that though.
— 🐝 johnmu.xml (personal) 🐝 (@JohnMu) May 11, 2022
If it’s not verified, then we definitely stop collecting data at some point. If it is verified and not used at all for a really long time, to me, that seems safe to pause too. IMO it’s better to put the processing “budget” into things that are known to be useful.
— 🐝 johnmu.xml (personal) 🐝 (@JohnMu) May 11, 2022
Google Search Console Performance Reports
Starting on May 13, 2022 – Google Search Console’s performance report is now logging impressions for additional desktop features that are specific with the Page Experience report.
One particular example was “Top Stories.” Google explained that it’s possible you will see an increase in desktop impressions filtering by Good Page Experience in the search appearance filter.
This is what Google had to say about this:
Search Console now logs impressions in the Page Experience report for additional desktop features, such as Top Stories. As a result, you may see an increase in your desktop impressions in the Page Experience report, as well as in the Search and News performance reports when filtering by the “Good Page Experience” search appearance.
Hi Barry — we made this a bit clearer in the note. This is just about the impressions in the Page Experience report. Thanks for flagging this!
— 🐝 johnmu.xml (personal) 🐝 (@JohnMu) May 16, 2022
Video Page Indexing Report Coming to Google Search Console
There was yet another development during May, 2022. Google Search Console now has a video page indexing report coming to the suite of tools.
Google announced this new report coming to Google Search Console during Google I/O on May 12th.
This report is actually going to be available under the index section in GSC, and should show a summary of all the video pages Google found while crawling and indexing your site.
Google Search Ranking Update on May 16th (Unconfirmed)
Barry Schwartz reported that on May 16th, there was a significant increase in industry chatter and ranking signals fluctuations.
Barry also pointed out that 1. it had been a quiet weekend for the first time in a long time, and 2. we were long overdue for a Google core update.
This is a small sample of the chatter that he revealed:
Another update yesterday? Sales went zero ( amazon sales still pick up). Lots of foreign and tor traffic again.
Semrush showing me huge gains in keywords for 2 of my 5 sites. One was up 20% every day last week, the other has remained flat. Somethings up.
They definitely did something yesterday. From last few hours of Sunday till yesterday evening traffic flow was noticeably more natural. Maybe they had to temporarily turn off some of their filters – Priority Publisher Promotion (PPP) filter, EAT-based Discrimination Filter (EDF) or simply had to cut down on googlespam boxes for some technical reason. This was coinciding with spike in Semrush sensor.
As of now traffic is exactly as awful as last week.
Back Order Value Schema
About a year ago, Google officially started supporting back ordered availability structured data.
However, the issue comes when Google shows the item as being out of stock, but not backordered, like the Schema structured data suggests.
Brian Freiesleben posted about this on Twitter, with a few complaints from others on the search forums noting this has happened to them too:
Product pages that use “BackOrder” availability in product SD still show “OutOfStock” in G search. I found a forum with others noting this too. Can you provide any insight on this @dannysullivan@JohnMu?
— Brian Freiesleben (@type_SEO) May 18, 2022
John Mueller further clarified:
We see these as two separate availabilities. We wanted to be as specific as possible for users and search engines.
— Brian Freiesleben (@type_SEO) May 18, 2022
New Version of Google News Being Tested
There is a brand-new version of Google News that’s being tested in different markets.
Barry Schwartz reported on this change on May 23, and indeed this new version of Google News is showing up on some browsers, and not others, indicating a varied testing market.
Kamlesh Shukla was the first SEO professional to report this new version of Google News on Twitter.
— Kamlesh Shukla (@iKamleshShukla) May 23, 2022
Google and FAQ Rich Results
There has been a significant shift in search results that are displaying FAQ rich results, which are showing up 5 times more often, according to Rank Ranger.
This shift happened around May 16th, when a massive spike was observed in the Rank Ranger tool.
This is a significant increase from around 22 percent of queries to over 27 percent of queries.
Yep, this seems to be the case. Seeing FAQ jump when the 5/18-ish update rolled out -> Google Showing More Search Results With FAQ Rich Results
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) May 25, 2022
Brand New Broad Core Update Hits May 25, 2022
Finally, at the end of May, we saw some massive changes in the search results including ranking fluctuations and industry discussions on the forums.
Clearly, something major was happening at the time and Google also confirmed that the broad core update was rolling out.
Historically, Google always notifies SEO professionals about core updates because these updates apply everywhere, algorithmically-speaking.
You can read the entire announcement for the broad core update.
Apple Introduced New Search Engine
Is May SEO industry shake-up month? It certainly seems like it. At least in 2022.
Indeed, there is a rumor that Apple is apparently going to announce a new search engine at their Apple WWDC (aka World Wide Developer Conference) happening on Monday, June 6th.
Robert Scoble posted this nice little tidbit tweet to Twitter:
Oh, and a new search engine is coming too. Will Siri finally get “smart?” Hmmm.
— Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) May 28, 2022