16th June Google Update May have Boosted News Sites

google updatesOn the 18th June 2015 we reported on what seemed to be one of the largest Google Updates ever recorded by Moz.

Whilst Pete Meyers at Moz seemed to find explanation for why the SERP tracking tools were going crazy (Wikipedia moving to HTTPS), it didn’t fully account for all the movement.  Fortunately, the founder of Searchmetrics (who has access to a lot of fresh data) noticed that News \ Fresh Content sites seemed to have benefited from this update, and we will delve into this in more detail shortly.

Firstly, let’s go through what we know.

What We Can Rule Out

  • Gary Illyes at Google ruled out a HTTPS update in response to the theory that this was somehow HTTPS related.
  • John Mueller ruled out Google Panda as well as Penguin in one of his Webmaster Central Hangouts and that it was a normal update.

So with Moz’s theory (HTTPS update) out the way, and the major named algorithm updates excluded, this must be something new.

The Current Theory – Fresh News \ Content Boost

There is an excellent and well supported theory by the founder of Searchmetrics, Marcus Tober which appears to show that sites with news or fresh content have benefited the most from this update.

If you had checked out the Searchmetrics Winners \ Losers visibility charts shortly after the update you would have seen a clear trend that news sites had clearly benefited.  We have highlighted some of the top movers below:

Domain SEO Visibility 19.06. Change in %
wsj.com  895796 19%
usatoday.com  1288587 11%
dailymail.co.uk  995618 12%
businessinsider.com  625008 20%
time.com  905321 13%
nbcnews.com  387537 30%
latimes.com  692956 13%
nypost.com  409336 21%
techcrunch.com  345354 26%
foxnews.com  665623 12%
steampowered.com  350761 22%
bizjournals.com  319230 24%
theverge.com  417862 17%
fortune.com  172396 45%
gizmodo.com  289973 20%
hollywoodlife.com  399168 13%
techtarget.com  252981 20%

The scale of the movement becomes even more clear when you look closer at one of the examples (i.e. Techcrunch):

techcrunch visibility searchmetrics

What is even more interesting is that Marcus Tober has given some great insight into what kind of keywords have benefited:

Those domains have largely benefitted for keywords like celebrity names. To cut it short: Many of the (organic) SERPs regarding the affected keywords look like an extended News box. And as I said at the beginning, the data has already changed while i was writing.

It would seem that this update could signal a continued volatility in the SERPS as Google constantly correlates trending keywords to fresh content and gives a boost to those sites chiming in on the conversation, whether by news articles or simply fresh relevant content.  This should make the SERPS much more up to date when dealing with hot topics.

Another interesting point that Marcus revealed was that there were no real losers with this update, with “most of the domains that dropped [having] lost rankings because of the ranking boost of the winners”.

The Google News-Wave Update

It seems to be a trend that whoever discovers the root cause of a Google Update gets to name it.  In this case Marcus decided on the name “News-Wave” due to the update relating to informational and newsworthy keywords.  Marcus also pointed out that certain keywords on existing articles may become newsworthy when something happens that is related to that keyword.  For example, an established biography of a well known actor may become newsworthy if that actor has just landed a role in a new film, or launched a new charity.

Webmasters have known for some time that fresh content will give you a temporary boost, and it would seem that this update is an extension of this.  We suspect that Google will be monitoring the algorithm carefully to ensure they get a balance of both recent newsworthy content, and older more authoritative content.

Take an example, pointed out by Marcus at Searchmetrics, of the keyword “US Open”, which happens to be ranking number 6 on Google Trends:

US-Open searchmetrics

Only 4 out of the 10 results are new entries, which still implies that older content still has an important place, but equally opens up a massive opportunity for new sites to rank highly for short periods.

Actuality is Important

Whilst this update is very new, and SEO specialists are still digging into the finer details, it would seem that actuality is now very important for determining the searchers intent.  With the relaunch of Google Trends at the same time as this update, there seems to be strong evidence that Google Trends now plays a very important part in Google Rankings for “hot topics”.

As the name of the update suggests (“wave”), the effect of the update should come and go as topics go in and out of popularity.  This will mean the general volatility of the Google Search Results should increase.

We will be happy to see your thoughts

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