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June Winners & Losers: Media, Ecommerce, Healthcare visibility shakeup after Google’s “Fake News” Core Algorithm update

Episode Overview

In the wake of Google’s “Fake News” core algorithm update, we examine which domains SEO visibility were affected. Tyson Stockton explains how the landscape has shifted for media, ecommerce and healthcare companies.

Media & Publishing:

  • Who is the most visible player in the publishing industry: CNN or NYT?
  • How did CBS mitigate the decrease in visibility of its core domain?
  • How US News continues to pile up incremental wins while its competitors are seeing significant fluctuations.

Ecommerce:

  • Did Google slap Wayfare’s hand for submitting SERPs into their index?
  • Are the changes in ecommerce a rollback of the September core algorithm update?

Healthcare:

  • How did Healthline recover from being hurt by the last core update?
  • Which domain was hurt most by the core update?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Benjamin: Welcome to our June 2019 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 Director of Searchmetrics’s services team. Live from O’Hare Airport presently, Tyson manages our SEO content and client success organizations, and outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’s largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s dug through search metrics this week to understand who’s making moves in the SEO community.

Benjamin: But before we hear from Tyson, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our local podcast listeners, we’re offering a complementary digital diagnostic, where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Director of Services at Searchmetrics.

Benjamin: Tyson, thank you for squeezing us in, in between client meetings and airplane flights. How is the Chicago O’Hare airport today?

Tyson: Thanks, Ben. The O’Hare airport is nice. I found a nice, quiet spot here sitting on a baggage claim belt. So, I’m going to do this.

Benjamin: I want everybody to know that the baggage claim belt is not actually moving. Tyson is in one place and ready to talk about the winners and losers this month for SEO without risking his well being. That said, let’s jump into it and talk about who’s making some moves in the SEO space. We’ve had a busy month. We had a big Google update, and Jordan and I, on some of our, what we’re calling “fake news Google update” episodes, talked a little bit about some of the changes, specifically focused on the media industry. Talk to me, now that the dust has settled a little bit, what are you seeing in the media industry?

Tyson: Yeah. You and Jordan touched on it a fair amount. We know that this space is … The real estate, so to speak, is shrinking and it’s getting more and more competitive. You saw a fair amount of websites lose visibility. But starting us out with the big players in this space, so the two biggest traditional media sites would be CNN and New York Times. If you look at the last 12 month period, you see a softening or a decline from the New York Times, and then you actually saw them have … kind of got a negative hit from this last algorithm update. Not as substantial as we’ve seen in some, but they did take a hit.

Tyson: Then you see CNN that’s actually been trending in the opposite direction for the last 12 months. They stayed really stable during this last algorithm update. So now you have CNN and New York Times that are just neck and neck, at the top of the pack. So, that’s just from a high level and one that I would call out as a winner is being able to, again, weather this storm, show stability and reach and now be at the same level as New York Times. So that, I think, is a win on CNN’s part.

Benjamin: Yeah. So the CNN properties right now, when we’re talking about the traditional news media properties: the New York Times, CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC-type properties, CNN is actually the biggest of those properties, passing the New York Times. They’ve volleyed back and forth a little bit recently, but they’re able to weather the storm. We’ve also seen some people continually win and not be affected by the Google update, and then some people that really have been crushed by this recent update.

Benjamin: Talk to me about some of the other players, not necessarily the ones at the top.

Tyson: Yeah. Another one that we’ve talked on this podcast before, and it’s really been the same reason that we brought them up in the past … In an industry where a lot of websites had a negative hit in visibility, we saw US News have another strong month where they were able to link together, again, some very moderate, kind of smaller wins. But in this industry that everyone else is feeling the pressure a bit more. I would also have, as a winner, US News, that again, inch by inch, is increasing their overall performance from search.

Benjamin: So, US News is essentially a winner in the media category because they’ve consistently been increasing their visibility. Who have we seen that was a significant site that’s had the biggest negative impact?

Tyson: One that there was a negative impact on the last algorithm update and over in the 12-month lens, we’ve seen a pretty substantial decline. Forbes I would put in that book. And then another one that actually … It’s kind of interesting, because there’s two sides of the coin. You and Jordan Wright called out, CBS is taking a pretty substantial blow. So, their root core domain, cbs.com, saw basically almost a 30 percent decrease from this last algorithm update. And then, in the last couple weeks, have showed there’s been a little movement, but we’re relatively stable.

Tyson: But when you dig into the CBS brands and stuff more, the interesting thing that you see is, cbs.com, definitely big negative hit from this last algorithm update.

Benjamin: Yeah, 30 percent’s pretty sizable.

Tyson: It is. But, when you look at CBS as a brand, CBSlocal.com had about the same increase from it. But actually, they’re at a higher level performance than cbs.com. So, if you take the combined SEO visibility of cbs.com plus CBSlocal.com, even though they took that negative 30 percent hit on the other site, their net total gain is actually up because they had this increase happen from the local domain.

Benjamin: Mazel Tov to the CBS SEOs out there, and our apologies for saying before that your domain got crushed. We were specifically referencing the cbs.com domain, but congratulations on optimizing the local domain to make up for that market share. Let’s talk about some of the industries outside of media, which we’ve covered a lot this month. What are some of the other industries that you’ve seen that were impacted by the Google update and who are the movers and shakers?

Tyson: Another industry I like to talk about is e-commerce. This was an industry that we spoke about quite a bit when we were talking about the March algorithm update. I think a lot of the attention from both these updates have been focused on the finance, your money, your life. But e-commerce is in a space that’s had quite a bit of movement. A couple examples of that is one, Wayfair is probably, of the big 10 or top 10 e-commerce sites in the US, they’re the website that took the largest negative hit. I know that you and Jordan spoke about what was going on with that site on that last podcast.

Benjamin: Yeah. Our speculation was that Wayfair basically was penalized for pushing their SERPs, which is against Google’s policies, into search listings. So, not only did they see a negative impact from the update, we think that this was a manual penalty as well.

Tyson: Yeah, and I think … Obviously, it’s hard to validate the manual penalty aspects, but I think you guys are spot-on. There’s definitely, in my opinion, a bit more on these updates than just the authority, the acronym stuff. I think it’s hard to validate that, but I would say there is something more going on and that was one of the more substantial movements. But an interesting trend that I noticed within e-commerce is the websites that were impacted the most from this algorithm update were the same sites that were also impacted from the previous update in March.

Tyson: A lot of them are going the opposite directions, where if they had a negative impact in the last one, they might have had a positive impact in this one. But I don’t believe that there’s evidence to support that it was a full rollback, or a reversal of the last algorithm update, because on one hand, you don’t see the same percentage change of performance in this that you did in the previous. So, let’s say if someone had a 20 percent decrease last time, you’re not seeing necessarily a 20 percent increase this time. Where in most cases, at least in the larger e-commerce players, you’re seeing maybe, let’s say, slightly half of what the change was on the last one.

Tyson: A couple examples of those would be websites like Walmart, where Walmart had a negative impact from the previous update, and then in this update, they’ve actually had three weeks now of positive growth performance. They’re still not anywhere close to where they were at prior to the last algorithm update, but it was the reverse direction as what we saw before.

Benjamin: So it feels like, in e-commerce, this is not necessarily a reversal of the previous updates, right? We’re seeing brands go different directions. Some, with this update, were going down, but it wasn’t the same amount that they went up from the last update. But on the flip side, brands that are in similar categories, with similar business models, similar content, have also gone up. So, it really seems like what is happening’s not a reversal and then there’s the big anomaly for Wayfair, which seems like it’s related to their search engine results pages being in the listings.

Tyson: Exactly. I think the most common pattern that I saw in visibility graphs was, again, a negative impact on the last one and then winning back some of the ground on this update, but not entirely. Other websites that fit that same pattern, besides Walmart, would also be websites like costco.com as well as kohls.com, where those websites were regaining at a market share from where they suffered in the last one.

Benjamin: Okay. Talk to me about the last industry we wanted to cover today, which is, what’s happening in the health industry?

Tyson: Yeah. The health industry’s interesting because you see some similarities with the patterns of e-commerce. In some cases, more pronounced. And then in some cases, it kind of just doesn’t fit the same mold. A couple websites to just touch on is one, Healthline, which was one of the websites that we really spoke about last time, where they had substantial decline on the last algorithm update, and then this one, they bounced back and regained a lot of that market share. They’re really almost at the same point of where they were from the previous update.

Benjamin: Let me jump in here and say that Healthline, their SEO, friend of the Voices of Search podcast, Ryan Purtill, who was a guest on our career day segment, as we are sitting here speculating as to what’s happening to Healthline’s business, Ryan, if you’re listening to this, we’d love to have you come on the show and talk to us about what you’ve seen over these last couple updates to validate some of the assumptions that we’re making. And we know you’re listening. Give me a shout.

Benjamin: All right, so sales pitch to have Ryan on the show aside, what are you seeing from their business and the rest of the health industry?
Tyson: You see WebMD has a similar pattern; a little more volatility between these two last algorithm updates, but they’ve regained some market share. And then, another website that we talked about at the previous algorithm update is Everyday Health. They had a pretty substantial blow to the business with the last algorithm update. As kind of a refresher to it, it was almost 75 percent decline. And unlike the last two websites that we mentioned that increased … I mean, I guess technically, they increased here. But it was such a substantial blow last time that they did not rebound at the same capacity that Healthline or WebMD did.

Tyson: So, they moved up a little bit from this, but when you look at the visibility from the last 12 months, it’s still way down from before. Just speaking to more exact numbers, right before the last algorithm update, their visibility this quarter was around 800 thousand. Now, even with some smaller wins over the last couple weeks, they’re sitting around 127 thousand. So, that was kind of interesting how you see the rebound across other ones, and they just really didn’t have the same bounce back that the rest of the larger websites had in that space.

Benjamin: It seems like Everyday Health is, from an SEO perspective, not very healthy at the moment. I feel bad that the … I don’t want to call anybody out, but it definitely seems like they are in our losers bucket for this month. So, before we get to our winners and losers for the month, Tyson, we had the Google update. Anything else that you noticed or any takeaways from what we’ve seen from this core update?

Tyson: Yeah. I think, on a month like this one, the core update just drowns out any of the other movements. So, it’s like, any other really substantial movements, I think it’s really difficult to separate it away from the algorithm update because it’s such a shift in the landscape of the industry. I’d say, all of these have some impact to the algorithm updates. Of course, some of the impacts on some websites may not be as pronounced or it may not have as substantial of an impact as we see in some of other spaces.
Benjamin: Yeah, it does seem like this update was scattered a little bit around. We talked about news and media, which definitely had an impact. It’s interesting, and this is something that Jordan mentioned, is how basically what we think is low-quality content, the fake news that was pushed down in the search results, was either replaced by Google products or it was replaced by filler. Right? The Diggs and the Yelps of the world, the aggregators, which that’s my big takeaway for this.

Benjamin: I also think it’s worth calling out that Google actually signaled that the update was coming for the first time, which is interesting. But let’s talk about the winners and losers for this month. Tyson, who’s your biggest winner of the month?

Tyson: I’m going to say CBSlocal, because that space, in particular from the conversation that you and Jordan had where he illustrated some of the hardships or challenges that they’ve been having. Seeing this kind of increase in performance on CBSlocal, I think, has to be really encouraging in a very tough and challenging space. So, within this media publishing things, I would definitely say CBSlocal and then CNN for again, weathering through the storm.
Benjamin: I’m going to go away from the media companies, because we talked a lot about them, and I’m going to throw the winner of the month being Healthline and purely because Ryan Purtill, Director of SEO at Healthline, we want to hear what happened, buddy.

Tyson: I heard Ryan was going to make it on the podcast.

Benjamin: Ryan’s been on the podcast. Ryan and I talked … We had a career day episode last month, and we’d love to have you back as a guest. So this is more of a shout out to Ryan. Congratulations to the Healthline team for weathering the storm and having a positive impact during the Google update. That’s my winner. Tyson, who’s your loser of the month?

Tyson: I think I would put the big loser of the month, I would actually say Wayfair, just because … I know it’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster for them, hitting the increase last time, but it was a substantial blow on this last drop.

Benjamin: I think you lose 30 percent market share in a significant industry, when you’re a top 10 like that, in what we think is a manual penalty, yeah, you’re getting my loser of the month as well. So, I’m going with Wayfair too.

Benjamin: All right, Tyson, any last words before we let you go?

Tyson: I think that covers it.

Benjamin: All right, buddy. Go catch your flight. Appreciate the time and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast, live from Chicago O’Hare airport. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’s Director of Services. If you’d like to learn more about Tyson or about where to eat in the O’Hare airport, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet at Tyson underscore Stockton.

Benjamin: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet and benjshap, it’s B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

Benjamin: If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed later this week.

Benjamin: Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.