On June 3rd Google began rolling out a new Core Algorithm update. And for once they decided to announce it beforehand on Twitter.
We all waited to see what the effects would be and boy oh boy did it spank some huge sites!
It’s now been a couple of weeks since the June core algorithm update rolled out and we’ve had a more sufficient amount of time to investigate its effect on rankings. Whilst it is still relatively early days, we can hypothesise about what this update may have been targeting by looking at the worst hit, and what Google employees are actually saying!
So, who are the losers in this update so far?
As you can see, sites such as Daily Mail have seen huge fallouts following on from this update. In fact, the fallout for Daily Mail was so bad their head of SEO actually posted on the Google webmasters forum looking for answers!
Many hypothesised on why Daily Mail had lost so much traffic overnight, such as; too many ads, untrustworthy content, overuse of half-naked women! But the reality is, until we get a wider picture it will be difficult to say what the main cause was.
Another site to see a huge fallout from this update was CCN (cryptocurrency news). They lost over 71% of traffic on mobile in just one night! Forcing them to shut down their site as their sites daily revenue was down 90%!
We’ll get to the potential why’s with this one a little bit further down!
This update so far seems to be far broader in who it affected than last years YMYL update, though one of the main sectors still affected is health and wellness.
As this chart from Sistrix shows:
As we can see the gambling industry (inherently untrustworthy as it can do serious damage to people’s financial wellbeing) and then the health industry were worst affected. This would indicate that this update does still have E-A-T as a large factor, though the fact that industries such as online media, travel and retail also saw big effects means that it is likely a more widespread quality update.
And who were the winners from this update?
As we can see from this chart, there was a wide range of ‘winners’ from this update; including news sites, retailers and health and wellness sites. The question is why did this update boost sites like the Sun and the Daily Mirror; but push sites like the Daily Mail down? Is there really a clear reason, when it is acknowledged that RankBrain acts based on its own algorithm learning?
Also, why was it predominantly English news media sites that were the big winners and losers? Did this update affect UK rankings more than others?
Healthline; a prominent health and wellbeing (YMYL) site saw huge gains of 33% in this update. And when we look at their site, the levels of E-A-T they show are impressive, so have they been rewarded for this? we’ll get to that further down.
Is the update linked to the recently released Quality Rater Guidelines?
There has been some light debate on this over on Twitter, but we think really it would be hard to say that they aren’t linked.
And why? Well, it appears that sites that heeded Googles new Quality Guidelines and tried to bring their sites in line with them have done a lot better than others. In fact, Marie Haynes published her clients (who had optimised their sites for the QRGs) results on to Twitter and they had all seen net gains from this update – that’s got to tell us something!
However, an article posted on SEJ seemed to want to discourage the idea that this update was to do with the QRGs and that they were only useful for content creation. And therefore that there is NOTHING that can be done to fix the issue, and backed it up with what Google and Danny Sullivan had said.
However, this article failed to mention that the same guy who had said;
Had also congratulated Marie Haynes on her clients’ increases after optimising their sites for the new QRGs.
This would, therefore, indicate that he DOES see the benefit of implementing the QRGs in order to improve rankings.
Of course, they are not the only factor in SEO, but having trustworthy, reliable content is still a key foundation. Otherwise, why would he be endorsing this?
Why has this therefore affected sites such as CCN and Daily Mail so badly?
It’s impossible to say exactly why, but there are a number of reasons it could have happened.
CCN is a mixture of both a news media and financial site, in that it reports on Cryptocurrency. We know that financial sites are held to higher standards than others, as the risks to the user from them are higher.
Though they do point out that they have won multiple awards in their industry, and have been around for a long period of time. They do not have their own Wikipedia page and therefore that could cause some issues with the trustworthiness part of the E-A-T equation.
After a cursory look at their site, there are also clear inconsistencies between the quality of their writers or contributors. Whilst they do have journalists with clear author pages on awards they have won, work they have done, there are also a consistent amount of contributors with little to no information on why we should trust what they are writing, why they are an expert in their field, apart from ‘everyday expertise’ which we know in the financial sector would not be sufficient.
Overall, it would seem that the trustworthiness of this site, especially with the authors is lacking, and would probably have played a big factor in why it was hit so hard.
The way they have announced that they are shutting down their entire site after two days also brings into question whether it was a little bit of a publicity stunt to raise awareness! Imagine the number of links they must have received since this happened! SEO’s everywhere have been talking about it 🙂
The Daily Mail
In regards to the Daily Mail, we can potentially see areas where E-A-T is an issue. For example; many of their articles (particularly in the TV and Showbiz section) do not even have an author attributed to them; it simply says: DAILYMAIL.COM REPORTER, whilst knowing the author in these sections isn’t as important, it still shows a lack of accountability, as we cannot see who wrote the article.
However, on articles in more serious areas, such as health, Science etc we do see Journalist names BUT when we click to go on to them and see more information on an author page – it doesn’t exist – instead you see a wall of articles written by that author, but no information on who the author is, what they do, what awards they’ve won etc – yet again meaning a lack of accountability!
If you contrast this with the Daily Mirror (who saw major net gains in the recent update) in their more serious articles, such as health, money, politics we can see not only a clear author page with an image but also well-constructed information which shows their topic expertise, awards and where they are based. Evidently, they have learned about the importance of E-A-T.
What this shows the user and Google is accountability for their content! We can see how trustworthy and how authoritative that person is in their industry to then make a judgement on whether what they are saying is reliable.
This shows potentially a different ethos between the two companies. If we think again of writing an essay at university. Would you quote the unknown source? Or would you look for sources in journals, papers, online sites that show the authority of the people writing them? I know which one would get you a better grade – and it would seem that Google views these sites in the same way!
Of course; we can’t say this for definite, but look around CCN, Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror and tell us which one you think has the most, quality information on the authors?
Daily Mail also has an extremely unpleasant experience when it comes to ads; videos pop up and play that is difficult to get rid of, page load speed is severely impeded, as is the actual viewing of the content. All of this leads to a less than pleasant experience.
Ads that impede usability are something that is discussed in the QRGs, so this also could have been a part of the recent update.
As we can see Google specifies that where ads are distracting or interrupt from the flow of the page then a low rating should be applied. We could see how this may be the case with the Daily Mail.
Sites that benefited in the health and wellness industry
One of the main net winners from the medic industry in the recent update was healthline.com so we thought we’d check them out to see what they were doing right or wrong.
Instantly we were hit by the high level of E-A-T they were showing on nearly all their articles.
This shows us how this article has been reviewed to ensure its medical validity by someone who is high up in the specific profession relevant to that article.
When you click through on the name, you are then taken to a page which shows the commitment to high standards of medical integrity that the website undertakes.
It then lists every single author and medical expert who writes and reviews the content. With links to their Linkedin accounts, information on the exact section of the health and wellness industry they work in e.g; Pharmacology, dermatology etc, and lists the exact titles/ degrees they have and their work history.
It even highlights the medical journalists that they have employed and consistently drives home the point about keeping integrity and trustworthiness on their site.
This website is clearly Googles dream site in terms of E-A-T and has some of the best author information we have ever seen on a site. It is also constantly trying to reiterate WHY it is trustworthy, and HOW it keeps its integrity.
This yet again is an indicator that author information may have been an integral part of this update.
So, what resolution is there for sites hit by this update?
As usual, Google’s official message is that there is no resolution, as with any updates there will be winners and losers, and it isn’t necessarily because the losers are bad at what they’re doing but that the winners were better and therefore deserved a push up the rankings.
While that is all well and good and may suggest that there’s not much a site needs to do in terms of coding etc, it doesn’t tell us WHY certain sites were on the winner’s list, and others weren’t.
Evidently some sites have done something better than the sites that lost out. So we need to understand what that is in order to improve and ensure that our clients or anyone else’s are not the next ones hit.
It would seem that optimising content by looking at the QRGs and what they recommend IS important
Danny Sullivan and John Mueller have acknowledged the good work done by other SEO’s who followed the QRGs and whose clients then saw gains in the recent update
This, therefore, indicates to us that the QRG’s have had an influence on this update, so quality and E-A-T were an important part of this.
If you then look at a lot of the sites affected, we can see that many of the ‘losers’ were either in YMYL industries or had questionable levels of E-A-T as we previously indicated.
Look all the way back to the Panda update
John Mueller recently gave away some pretty golden information in his Google Hangout video. When asked what webmasters can REALLY do to fix their site, he mentioned three main things:
1. Does the site look outdated
2. Do people not recognise who your authors are
3. Are the author photos not their real photos but stock images
It is interesting that he specifically mentions ‘authors’ in two of those three points. Does that then support our theory that sites with lesser-known (or no evidence of an author) would have been pushed down the rankings in favour of sites that had clear author information?
He then also made a reference back to the Panda update, and the 23 questions shared as part of Google’s decision making when creating a quality update and what they would have in mind!
Here are the questions he is referring to:
This indicates that quality is still an important part of this update. And we can then begin to draw conclusions on whether the sites that have done well and those that haven’t have fulfilled or not fulfilled the criteria laid out in these questions.
In any case, when creating pages, or even optimising pages, it is important to ask yourself these 23 questions!
Danny Sullivan does specify quite emphatically that this update is NOT a panda update, BUT that the 23 questions outlined are important for reviewing the quality of the content! (which is still key for E-A-T).
Overall it seems clear that E-A-T and quality of pages were a major factor in these updates.
When we look at who has done well, and who hasn’t done so well it seems clear that those who implemented recommendations based on the Quality Rater Guidelines fared better than those that didn’t.
Confirmation from people like John Mueller of the importance of quality authors, and the quality questions related to the Panda update, also second this idea that the update may have been based around these factors. However, as previously mentioned it is key to note that this update is NOT a panda update, but seems to be, rather focused on E-A-T of which, of course, quality is still a part of.
Now, of course, it isn’t to say that quality of pages and E-A-T are the only important factors – we know there are over 200 ranking factors, but looking solely at this update the importance of these factors seems to have been enhanced or tweaked.
Overall it seems a lot of this update has been to do with the quality of authors used, which is a huge part of E-A-T; we only have to look at some of the winners; Healthline, in particular, had fantastic author pages, and the Daily Mirrors were also very good.
But yet again it is still early days and things could change as more data comes in, but we will be sure to change and update our findings as we get new information.