Episode Overview: June is a major mid-year point for big name brands and organizations as the strategies they implement now significantly impact their Q4 earnings. As the COVID-19 pandemic further complicates business operations, it’s more important than ever for businesses to get their strategies right to successfully weather the pandemic’s turbulent financial storm. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ VP of Services Tyson Stockton about which companies and organizations set themselves up for success in June, and which ones have found themselves lost in the pandemic’s storm.
- Segments within ecommerce experienced volatile highs and lows, with major brands coming out on top along with some unexpected contenders in media.
- Healthcare websites with .gov extensions experienced significant boosts in visibility as the public searched for pandemic information from reputable leaders and sources in science and healthcare.
- Visibility among the top 10 ecommerce sites were generally up, except Amazon who experienced a 5% drop in visibility, along with Walmart who dropped from just over two million views at the start of May to 1.78 million in June.
- eBay continues to string a series of significant wins since the beginning of January into June, setting them up for success for the rest of the year should they continue their streak.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Tyson Stockton: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to our June 2020 edition of Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to take a look back on the month and talk about some of the trends behind some of the biggest movers, shakers and slackers in the SEO world. Joining us for Winners and Losers is Tyson Stockton, the vice president of Searchmetrics’ services department. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations and outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s dug through the Searchmetrics suite to help you understand who’s making moves in the SEO community.
Ben: Okay, here’s my monthly sit down with Searchmetrics’ Vice President of Services Tyson Stockton. Tyson, welcome to Winners and Losers on The Voices of Search podcast.
Tyson: What’s going on, Ben. Thanks for having me back.
Ben: Hey, we’re midway into summer. Are you out going to lots of parties and barbecues?
Tyson: Not quite yet. I wouldn’t say hitting the parties or the large gatherings, but definitely getting outside as much as I can for sure.
Ben: I have barbecued. I have not gone to a barbecue. Does that count for anything?
Tyson: Same boat.
Ben: Obviously we’re still feeling the effects of the outbreak of the coronavirus. We’re also in the middle of the summer. Everybody’s off from school. It’s a little bit of a dead period for most brands when you think about the summer haze. Tell me what you’re seeing in the SEO landscape and how’s this different than the typical summer?
Tyson: I mean, there’s the elephant in the room this summer, COVID. I mean, there’s certainly that. Yeah. I mean, I’d say it’s a really odd one, both in the form of where businesses are at, working remote, that whole aspect. I mean, I’d advocate as much as possible to people to keep up the momentum. We’ve talked about this in webinars of other podcasts. It can be challenging keeping motivation and kind of morale high during times when people could be burnt out, but the opportunity’s there. We’re seeing some businesses really hit strides.
Tyson: For example, if I was in ecommerce, this is a really critical summer. Some segments within ecommerce had harder, easier times than others, but I think a lot of them are going to be looking at Q4 and that’s going to be a critical time to make and break the year. So the work that people put in right now, this summer, is going to pay dividends later.
Ben: This is the traditional summer slowdown. It’s also the time for you to work on those big projects, right? Hopefully there’s not a lot of ground changes in your SEO results. So that allows you to work on infrastructure while the rest of the world parties and sleeps and goes to barbecues. Let’s talk about some of the things that we’ve seen happening in terms of SEO results. Have we been seeing lots of fluctuations in the last month?
Tyson: There has been. So obviously there’s a ton of movement last month. We got a nice little kind of break in the conversation from the COVID and we’re able to talk more specifically around the algorithm, which you did have this blending of like, “Okay, is this an algorithm impact or was this change of search behavior?” So that was an interesting spin on this algorithm update, or this last one.
Tyson: This month we also saw some interesting movements. I’d say overarching, if we took a look outside of necessarily industries, which we’ll get into, and typically that’s how we frame our conversations, but looking at it on a very macro level, we just took the absolute winners and losers from our research cloud and looked at it every week for the last month. In this last week in particular, it was really interesting seeing a fair amount of movement on some government domains, like the .gov ones, which we can touch in within some of the health related queries, but there’s some significant movement there.
Tyson: Then also looking at some of the reverse of the losers side, there was kind of a trend of a lot of editorial news sites, which a few months back we were talking about being in the winner’s category. So in particular, in this last week, a fair amount of movement from the .gov domains and then the negative side of that, some more editorial, not as scientific, maybe content taking a little bit more of a challenge in that time.
Ben: Not to go down the political rabbit hole, but is this Google basically saying the term fake news that the editorial sites are not real news and the government sites are actually reporting more valuable information. Is this a correlation? Is it a causation? How are the two related?
Tyson: Yeah, I mean, I would say more correlation at this point. So it’s like Google’s chugging along, as far as their development goes. They haven’t slowed down on their rollouts. There’s a lot of people in the community being like, “Was it right that they put out a algorithm update?”
Tyson: It’s like, “Well, it’s pretty business as usual for them.” So it’s like this year, they’ve continued to understand how they’re able to determine relevancy, how they’re able to determine … What they’re matching those to, and then who’s rewarding and whose content is satisfying that. To me, all of this is just a continuation of those efforts. There is a heightened kind of significance to the times that we’re in now. I think the ranking shifts kind of reflect that. So if we wanted to start off talking about some of these .gov sites, like the CDC, they jumped up 10% this last week.
Tyson: We also have, not necessarily a government, but still I would say a pretty like high authority site within education, so like the University of Michigan, the health.org site was up 32%. And then things like medicare.gov, they jumped up 56% just in this last week. So you’re having this kind of trend or these authoritative, more just technical medical sites that are backed by either government, large university organizations and those kind of that are winning, and then kind of on the downside of a similar phase, medicalnewstoday.com, which is a little more lighter, a little more editorial format. Those ones, we saw took a 10% decrease.
Tyson: So I wouldn’t say it’s something that’s totally new, and there’s elements that we’ve seen before, but it was, in this last month, a little bit of a ratcheting up in those areas and seeing more separation between the authoritative medical sites versus the more informational news oriented medical sites.
Ben: I would make the argument that it’s not necessarily government sites that are prioritized, but the more authoritative health sites. It seems like there’s a common thread between CDC, the University of Michigan. Those are the sites that are going up and the less authoritative medical content, like the non-study backed, non-research backed medical content, is taking a back seat. Have you seen Healthline and WebMD, has there been an impact with any of those brands as well?
Tyson: There’s been some movement, but not nearly as much. So those big medical sites, the WebMDs, Mayo Clinics, a little bit of movement and nothing too substantial. So WebMD down 5%. The previous week’s pretty flat. Mayo Clinic, two weeks of low single digit, 2-3% declines, but before that they were on an upward trend. So it’s like those ones I would say, have been relatively more stable in this. It’s those second tier horns where you’re seeing more movement and to further expand out, other winners in this, let’s call it a medical kind of space, is the fda.gov, ssa.gov, ftc.gov. Then also medicare.gov.
Tyson: All of those sites are up between 15 and the most significant one, medicare.gov, up 56%. So that’s really where you’re seeing the movement. Then another one that shares a lot of similar keywords, medscape.com, down 13%, pretty significant drop. The other one that’s been on a steady decline over the last few weeks, goodrx.com down 5%. I think that’s really where you’re seeing the consistencies and the similar trends.
Ben: As with the way of the world right now, the trend is that there is a moving and shaking when we think about how people think about their health, about the content related to health. Have you seen fluctuations outside of the obvious COVID impacted terms? Is there anything happening in ecommerce, in content, in entertainment?
Tyson: Yeah, ecommerce was a kind of interesting one this last month, and what I mean by that is first we saw previously a lot of winners and we talked about it in our algorithm update. A lot of the big 10 ecommerce sites were up. Since then, over the last month, there was some stability between the big 10, but we saw a few come back down. More interesting over the last, I’d say four weeks, we’ve also seen some changes in mobile visibility versus their desktop visibility. This stood out a little bit because it was largely across the board. So there wasn’t a clear winner and you saw some smaller sites that were a little more specialty to specific terms that were still doing well, but there was really, yeah, quite a few interesting things because one, if you’re thinking, “Okay, maybe mobile search demand has gone down,” well, that didn’t really pan out because if you looked at really niche retailers, that maybe within a category that’s trending up, we still saw similar single digit declines over the last three weeks in the visibility ranking.
Tyson: We did detect some changes with Amazon acquiring some more stacked rankings. That was an interesting piece on that. Lauren on our DSG team, she was looking into some of those stack rankings and then also some additional movements and changes from SERP elements. So what we did find is that within the … If you look at overall across our entire data set, is there more or less queries that are triggering these different queries? Across mobile, we saw a pretty sharp, or a pretty significant increase, in video integrations into the SERPs. That’s something that you haven’t seen necessarily as much on desktop. So we have seen actually kind of a ratcheting up on some of those elements, which in nature, pushes down the organic rankings, in which case that’ll impact your visibility’s core. So that was kind of a nuance within ecommerce over the last 30 days that kind of has popped up.
Ben: Understanding that we’re seeing some shifts in the ecommerce space, talk to me about who has been impacted positively and who’s been impacted negatively.
Tyson: Yeah, so like I said, last month a lot of winners in the big 10 ecommerce. This month, a lot more on the loser side of it. Starting out, elephant in the room, Amazon actually took a bit of a tumble on this last week, going down 5%. Earlier, they’re fairly stable so no one’s worried about Amazon. They’re doing just fine, but Walmart was a pretty interesting one where they’ve had basically declines for the last six weeks. It’s really ever since the algorithm update, they’ve had a pretty significant drop in their total visibility score. I mean, they’re still clearly the number two, but they’re currently sitting at 1.78 million. If you went back to the start of May, they were actually looking at a little bit over 2 million, so pretty substantial drop there.
Tyson: Other ones that were doing really well prior, like Home Depot we talked about being super strong performance gains end of last year, beginning of this year and they took a bit of a tumble this month. Best Buy, hit by the algorithm update, continued to slip ever since. On the bright side, eBay they’ve been stringing together some consistent wins, and actually going back since the beginning of the year, they’ve had a steady week over week increase ever since the start of the year. So definitely getting a little bit momentum. So yes, some nice work from the eBay guys.
Ben: Congratulations to my Alma Mater eBay and they also have new leadership at the company. Their new CEO was there while I was there, so excited to see that they’re doing well. As you think about some of the other industries that were impacted, we talked about health, we talked about ecommerce. Any other industries get shaken up this month?
Tyson: Yeah. A couple other just kind of random ones. These ones I thought were interesting just as far as out of the norm, excessive kind of increases. One I thought that was kind of interesting, Cartoon Network, really strong growth the last couple of weeks for them.
Ben: Everybody needs a laugh these days, Tyson. Everybody needs a laugh. Google recognizes it too.
Tyson: Yeah. So Cartoon Network, they’ve been crushing it this month. They have some interesting stuff going on with their international domains. So I think they probably still have some more opportunity there, but yeah just this last week, 25% increase, some strong gains for the Cartoon Network.
Ben: I’m going to take a break from this episode and do something that I did in the last episode. I recorded with Jordan koene and I’m going to tell a quick SEO joke. How did the SEO find her way back through the woods? She followed the breadcrumbs.
Ben: All right. Back to your regular scheduled program. Tyson, so we’re seeing the Cartoon Network picking up some visibility share. They’re picking up the visibility, they’re taking it away from other people. Is there anybody that was negatively impacted in the entertainment industry?
Tyson: I think the negative ones, it wasn’t as much of one person taking a huge tumble, but when looking on the macro lens of all the websites that lost visibility each week of this, there was definitely that common trend of news editorial sites. So I think we saw some positive growth from them on the previous month. We talked about the Spotify example of how Google’s interpreting the intent of someone searching an artist name that swung in the favor of the news editorial platforms. This month, and I think it’s you really … I mean, it’s not just in isolation, but in the same way of interpreting that 10 we saw, and we discussed kind of the beginning of the conversation with the medical or the government related sites, that pendulum’s kind of swinging back and I would say the news and editorials across the board took a little bit of a hit this last month.
Ben: What I’m hearing is Google understands that people need to check the official health websites. They don’t need to read the news as much and they really need a laugh. So they’re prioritizing the Cartoon Network over the New York Times or whatever the publication may be.
Tyson: Yeah. Maybe Google got one right this month. Who knows.
Ben: Should I tell another joke? No? Okay. I’ll skip it. Tyson, so as you think about what happened this month, let’s talk about who the big winners were.
Tyson: Yeah. I think big winners, those authoritative medicare.gov, ftc.gov, fda.gov. I think those ones, if you want to cluster them into a group, would be the winners. But then as far as if I’m picking one winner, I’d give the head nod to eBay. Seeing the big 10 across the board and ecommerce all taking steps backwards. Them, just for this month, but looking at it from the start of the year and … Together those week over the week wins, I’d give the head nod to eBay.
Ben: For my winner of the month. I’m going to go with the Cartoon Network purely for the reason, yes, they had picked up some visibility, but it gives me the chance to tell another bad joke about SEO. What’s a black hat’s favorite food?
Tyson: Go for it.
Tyson: Come on now.
Ben: I love it. All right, Tyson, bad jokes aside, who’s loser of the month.
Tyson: Loser the month. So for my losers, I’m going to stay on this ecommerce thread and I’m actually, I’m going to call out Best Buy on this one. Big substantial drops in the algorithm update and then seeing that continues slide in the last four weeks… I mean, even going back to the beginning of the algorithm update. So I put Best Buy in the loser bucket.
Ben: For my loser of the month I’m going to go with the news sites. We’ve obviously seen a lot of sort of official information being distributed more through Google. We’re seeing the changes from the CDC and them picking up market share, and even as we joked around, the Cartoon Network picking up market share, it seems like all of these opinion type sites, that content, is being deprioritized slightly by Google. So I’m going to call my loser of the month, the media and publishing. Tyson any last comments on this month?
Tyson: No, I think not as exciting as a previous month, but it was really interesting watching some of the changes in search behavior and Google interpreting that and some of the pieces that were going into driving the changes within some of those. So a lot of movement on generic head terms and specific websites are being deemed more of authoritative or having really close relevancy to that.
Ben: For all of us right now, I think we could take no news as good news. That said, Tyson is going to be back with you again to talk about how you, as an SEO, can prepare for another COVID related shutdown. So that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, the vice president of services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton, or you can visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You could even apply to be a guest speaker on The Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Of course you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voicesofsearch on Twitter and my personal handle is Benjshap. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the workweek. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.