The Main Takeaways from Google’s Diversity and Core Updates

The Main Takeaways from Google’s Diversity and Core Updates

Every SEO agency needs to keep abreast of all of Google’s latest algorithm updates, and June 2019 saw Google releasing two major updates to their search algorithm: the June Core Update and the diversity update.

Google took three days to roll out the diversity update and five days for the Core Update.

Google emphasised that both updates were distinct from each other, calling them “unconnected releases”. However, because the two updates were released very close to each other, some webmasters who saw a change in their rankings were confused over which update had caused the change or whether they were seeing the combined effects of both of them. Here’s an overview of the impact of both.

The diversity update

The purpose of the update, as the name implies, was so Google’s SERPs could display a more diverse set of results, as searchers often find that out of the ten results on the first SERP, several of the results are from the same domain. Google’s intention is, from now on, to not show more than two links from the same site on the top results page.

It will be good news for those who find that the SERPs for some of the most popular keywords related to their industry seem to be dominated by links to the same site, hopefully allowing smaller sites to achieve more visibility.

However, the company did mention that having ten unique results per page will not always be possible. If a domain has particularly relevant results to a search query, then Google may display more than two results linking to it. Obvious examples would be in instances where the user’s search term includes a particular brand, such as “YouTube Videos” Or ‘’Amazon’’. Here it would make sense for them to see more than just one result on the first page linking to Youtube or Amazon respectively.

In a tweet, Danny Sullivan, Google’s public Search Liaison, stated that the diversity update would only affect the core web search listings. Additional features that appear on the results pages, such as featured snippets and image carousels, do not count towards a domain’s number of results, but in most cases the algorithm will treat subdomains as part of the root domain, counting them as part of the same site (they may be treated as separate if it’s decided to be relevant to do so).

Google asked webmasters to not think of this as an update but as a “change” and that it wasn’t about ranking. Sites that ranked well before should still do so but may not have all the links they used to have on the first SERP.

What has the diversity update changed?

The update has not had the impact that some thought it would, and it’s not hard to still find examples of the same website repeatedly appearing on a single results page. Analytics from Moz, which looked at how the update affected its 10,000 keyword data set, showed that it has resulted in a slight improvement in results diversity, but nothing too substantial. Moz reported that average diversity across all SERPs in its data set rose from 90.23 per cent to 90.72 per cent (a site with a 90 per cent diversity rate would have nine out of the ten results on the SERP be unique with one repeat). This appears to be a meagre improvement to say the least. A greater change can be seen when isolating the results; the percentage of pages that had a diversity rating of 80 per cent or better rose from 84.58 per cent to 86.68 per cent. However, overall there was little change in the number of worst offending SERPs (where six to ten results came from the same site), and it seems as though Google still has a lot more work to do before it fixes the issue of one site completely dominating the results for particular queries.

However, even though the change to the algorithm so far appears to be minimal, Google has said that it plans to keep working towards the goal of improved diversity, so the update in June is likely to be only the beginning.

The June Core Update

The purpose of June 2019’s Core Update was the same as all the changes Google makes to its algorithm: to improve user experience.

Google releases updates all the time. The company usually doesn’t draw much attention to these and instead leaves webmasters to do their own investigative work and alter their SEO campaigns accordingly. The June Core Update got much more recognition than most as Google pre-announced it before its release. Danny Sullivan stated that the update was set to have larger ramifications on the results than others with “definitely noticeable” effects.

Who was most affected by the Core Update?

The Core Update has perplexed some as a lot of sites have reported minimal changes while others saw vast differences. Some sites, such as the Daily Mail and American cryptocurrency news site CCN, suffered heavy falls in traffic due to the core update (the latter shut down after losing 90 per cent of its daily revenue).

Google will not give an exact explanation to why some sites saw such a sharp downfall, but one leading theory is that Google is cracking down on sites with too many pop-up advertisements and that are slow to load. Poor quality content is another likely reason why some sites are now getting fewer visitors, and some have speculated that the Daily Mail’s reputation for clickbait articles and sensationalist headlines contributed to its severe drop.

How best to adapt to the Core Update

During a Webmaster Hangout, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller admitted that it is difficult to work out what precisely to fix because core updates are very broad, and therefore he couldn’t say with certainty what all websites should have done to protect their ranking. He said that it was important for websites to not focus on the minute details and instead look at the bigger picture, adding that sometimes traffic drops because of external factors outside of webmasters control and that changes in traffic are simply due to the web and what users expect from it evolving. When trying to recoup lost traffic, Mueller stated that webmasters should be primarily concerned with quality issues and not the other problems such as too much advertising.

Danny Sullivan supported this view when speaking of another broad algorithm update in August last year by saying that while he could easily say that the secret is to improve site speed and security, “that’s not what this update was about. It’s broad. And respectfully, I think telling people there’s no particular thing to “fix” is indeed helpful. It means, hopefully, they think more broadly”.

Sullivan went on to state that the best way to recover from a loss of traffic caused by the June update is to make sure your content is excellent. This “same boring answer” (in Sullivan’s words) has been the recommended course of action since the Panda update in 2011, and it’s likely to remain the same for all future updates as Google continues to encourage sites to publish relevant, well-written content. You may have already heard of the E-A-T acronym (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) when creating SEO-friendly content, which after the update now has greater importance than ever. You can be sure that if you want to stay ahead of the rankings, no matter what changes Google makes to its algorithm, producing excellent content is likely to remain the number one priority.

Stay ahead of Google’s future updates with BORN

Another essential bit of wisdom Mueller imparted was to get a third party to evaluate your website for you, as they can lend an unbiased eye and give an honest assessment on where improvement is needed and what might be causing your traffic to drop. And if you’re going to have someone look over your site, they should be an SEO expert. BORN has decades of experience in the field and can give your site a thorough health assessment.

BORN knows the best analytics tools to help us keep track of how your website is ranking compared to your competitors, how each major and minor update has impacted you, and what alterations to your optimisation strategy are necessary to adapt to them.

SEO is an ongoing job that requires a lot of attention. Just because you’ve ranked highly in the past does not mean that you’ll continue to do so in the future; this latest core update saw traffic to sites that had performed well for years suddenly fall off a cliff. BORN can help you rise to the top of the rankings no matter what by putting the best SEO strategies into practice. Get in contact with us today to find out more about how we can help you.

Likewise, if your traffic has had a drastic drop after the June core update, we can help you take the appropriate steps towards recovery, which may include replacing thin content with high-quality, helpful pages; ensuring your site has an excellent internal linking structure with a high number of backlinks from reputable sites; designing your site to be responsive on both mobile and desktop; and putting in all the necessary keyword research to work out which phrases are the best to optimise for.

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