Google search results: Pinterest and Facebook “biggest gainers” while publisher rankings slump

25/01/2017

Content from social platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram saw some of the biggest gains in visibility in Google searches during the last year, while online publications saw a major decline, according to new research.

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The data is based on an analysis of the change in search performance for each website during 2016. It comes from analysis by Searchmetrics’ busing the SEO Visibility¹ score (an elementary indicator for measuring a webpage’s performance in organic search).
It found that some of the biggest losses came from sites such as theatlantic.com and newyorker.com, as well as online dictionary and encyclopaedia sites such as thefreedictionary.com.
Publishing industry hit by falls in rankings
The most commonly-found category amongst the top losers of 2016 were publisher websites, many of whom were general news domains.

This is likely down to the Google Core Update which rolled out in early 2016, bringing changes in Google’s core algorithm by improving how user intent is gauged and how content relevance is evaluated. In its wake many publishers were already amongst the losers, as older posts and articles about brands experienced drops in ranking. High-quality relevant content, which deals with topics holistically, were the winners.

The declining publisher websites were often general news or information sites, whereas winners were more often publishers offering more specific special interest content.
Marcus Tober Searchmetrics’ founder emphasized in his blog post that it is not just the sheer volume of content that is decisive for a good ranking, but whether the content is deemed relevant and useful to the user.

Encyclopaedia and dictionary sites lose out
Encyclopaedias, dictionaries, translation sites and lyrics domains were also among the big losers according to the analysis. Their declines were likely to have been impacted by two things: firstly, Google’s Phantom IV algorithm update which came into effect in June/July 2016 and was designed to reduce the visibility of low-quality and duplicate content in search results; secondly, these sites were also likely to have been impacted by the increased implementation of ‘direct answers’, a Google widget appearing above the organic search results in which Google tries to answer the searchers’ question or query.
Large portals and social sites are among big winners
Large portals including Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter continue to be big winners in search by offering new and differentiated content – key themes for Google and other search engines as they increase their use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (with initiatives such as Google’s RankBrain to better understand search intent and present the most relevant content in search results).
Differentiated content in this context means that these sites offer a wide range of different content that is relevant to countless search queries. The crucial thing is that this content is not broad and vague – but highly specific content which is often exactly what searchers are looking for.

“Sites that get quicker at loading new, engaging content that seeks to understand the user’s search intent are poised for even greater gains in 2017,” said Tober in the Searchmetrics’ blog post.

For more analysis, insights and charts about Searchmetrics’ review of the winners and losers in search in 2016 visit the company’s blog post here.

Methodology

Searchmetrics monitors the organic search results of millions of keywords which it uses to calculate the ‘SEO Visibility’ score. The SEO visibility score for a web domain is based on data such as:

· The number of times a domain appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs) across the keyword set

· Its prominence within those SERPs (a higher ranking equates to a higher visibility score)

· The competitiveness of the keyword (higher search volumes equate to a higher visibility score)

For the evaluation of the biggest winners and losers in 2016 Searchmetrics analyzed the change in the SEO Visibility of all domains included in our Index over the course of the year. The lists of winners and losers is sorted by absolute change.

While SEO Visibility can relate to a website's real traffic, it is important to remember that traffic can come from many different places online. SEO Visibility is only an indicator of visibility that comes from a website's organic search channel.

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