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The Rising and Falling Stars in Google US

As another year in SEO ends, it’s time to take a look back at the rising and the falling stars in SEO Visibility for 2014, and most importantly, why the rankings changed.

First, there is much more quality to be found in the search results, no doubt due to the effects of Panda, Penguin & more. Big brands are among the Winners for 2014, but some websites on the list have also lost visibility for some features. The “Losers list” also features information aggregators, gaming and price comparison sites.

Searchmetrics Rising-Falling-Stars

Calculation of the data and domain lists is based on the SEO Visibility score of the domains analyzed using a wide range of data points, and we have compared these to the average domain scores for 2013.

Domain-year comparison with averages 2013/2014

Because individual data points are susceptible to short-term fluctuations, trends, re-launches etc, we have not just compared the data of one specific calendar week between years. Instead, we have examined the top Winning and Losing domain rankings based on absolute percentage gain or loss. That is to say that we have looked at those domains with the largest absolute Delta, ordered by the relative Delta, and ignored those features that had too much ‘white noise’ to take an analysis from.

Our primary concern is to analyze long-term trends in the average SEO Visibility development of sites, and to achieve this, we decided to neglect short-term fluctuations. The result of this is that even some Winning sites could be subject to a downward trend, but are nonetheless considered Winners (the counter example is the ‘Losing’ site This type of analysis has the disadvantage that current trends in a specific period (e.g. the last three months of 2014) may be less visible, but the advantage is that these short-term fluctuations in ranking balance out over time, and this allows us to see the general trend without being biased by these outliers.

Falling Stars 2014

Below is a list of domains whose relative SEO Visibility loss over the year (cumulative) was greater than 10%. The following lists are not exhaustive, but serve to illustrate the higher-level trends:

Domain Loss in % Category -100 *Redirected -97 *Redirected -92 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -72 Web Portal -60 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -60 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -59 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -59 News/Video -59 News/Video -57 News/Video -54 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -49 Social/Portal -48 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -45 Info -45 News/Video -40 Social/Portal -39 Internet/Computer/Tech -39 Social/Portal -37 News/Video -36 News/Video -35 Social/Portal -35 Q&A/Expert -35 News/Video -34 Info -32 Social/Portal -31 Social/Portal -30 Internet/Computer/Tech -28 Blog -27 Classif -27 News/Video -27 Retail -27 Travel -26 News/Video -26 Blog -24 News/Video -23 News/Video -23 Social/Portal -22 Price/Classif -22 Travel -21 Cooking -21 News/Video -21 Q&A/Expert -21 Blog -21 Q&A/Expert -21 News/Video -20 News/Video -20 News/Video -18 Info -18 Social/Portal -17 *Redirected -16 Info -16 Info -15 News/Video -15 News/Video -14 Adress -13 News/Video -13 News/Video -12 News/Video -12 Adress -12 Enc/Dict/Lyrics -11 Med -11 Price/Classif -10 Blog


Rising Stars 2014

The Winners list below is a list of domains with a relative increase in SEO Visibility of more than 10%:

Domain Gain in % Category 2.037 Med 393 Social/Portal 223 Med 211 Price/Classif 200 News/Video 160 News 126 News/Video 92 Social/Portal 84 Social/Portal 80 Info 76 News/Video 68 *Redirected 65 News/Video 64 News/Video 50 Med 48 Enc/Dict/Lyrics 46 Social/Portal 43 Blog 41 News/Video 41 Info 38 Social/Portal 35 Retail 35 News/Video 32 News/Video 32 Blog 30 Music 30 News/Video 28 News/Video 24 Social/Portal 24 Retail 24 News/Video 24 Enc/Dict/Lyrics 24 Price/Classif 24 Internet/Computer/Tech 24 Games 23 News/Video 22 News/Video 22 Retail 22 Internet/Computer/Technik 22 Enc/Dict/Lyrics 21 Price/Classif 21 Q&A/Expert 20 Weather 19 Retail 19 Enc/Dict/Lyrics 19 News/Video 18 Enc/Dict/Lyrics 18 News/Video 14 News/Video 14 News/Video 14 Med 14 Retail 14 Info 12 Internet/Computer/Tech 12 Food 12 Price/Classif 11 Food 11 News/Video 11 Social/Portal 10 Social/Portal 10 Travel 10 Weather


In-Depth: Redirects – learning through case studies?

The list of losers deliberately includes re-directed domains. These domains are not really considered ‘Losers’, but they do neatly illustrate the effects on SEO Visibility of such a re-direct, and how long it takes for the site to recover to previous levels of performance.

Here’s an example:

redirect to .org

‘’ was moved to the .org TLD in January 2014. This was accompanied by an immediate increase in SEO Visibility for the .org domain, but it still took 8 months of gradual improvement until the previous levels of visibility were attained.

‘’, who suffered a Google penalty a year ago (see screenshot below) re-directed in mid July 2014 to ‘’. Here we can see a similar, yet slightly different picture:

redirect to

In contrast to the Mayo Clinic, had a stepped rather than continuous increase, with the original site values being regained after only three months. The decrease after this was due to other reasons, to be part of the discussion later on.

Take Away: As a rule, re-directs do not bounce back to their previous status immediately (with some exceptions proving the rule here – and there is also always the question whether the content is moved to a completely new or an already existing domain, or if the content is consolidated with other content that already exists). Instead, we observed that the increase in SEO Visibility happens gradually over about three months on average (plus or minus).

Content-related developments: Panda, Slow Death and More

Note: We focus here less on individual domains, and more on trends that can be generally observed that allow for conclusions on the overall development of Google and Search. This approach is easier to understand if the domains are characterized by industry sector. These industry classifications are provided in the lists.

Let’s first investigate domains that have lost out due to Panda, content and relevance factors. Amongst these are news aggregators such as, (which suffered from the Panda update), and The relentless decline in SEO Visibility that has suffered seems like what is called a Slow Death phenomenon (without having had a deeper look at it), looks like this:

SEO Visibility

The following issues are mostly subordinate to this whole complex area of ‘Content Relevance’ and still make up an important part of SEO Visibility development:

1. News portal losers – Brand-name or ‘Evergreen’ keywords

Among the losers from 2014 are several ‘News-based’ domains, amongst whom there are some famous brand names. shows Panda-related spikes for the Panda 4.0 release (May 2014) and the Panda 4.1 release (Sept/Oct 2014):

SEO Visibility

Looking at losing keywords after Panda 4.0 (25.5.2014), there is a long list of brand names (celebrities are also included in this category) that have fallen dramatically in the rankings, and in some cases have dropped off the index completely. - loser keywords Panda4

For, it’s a similar picture. Similar domains have lost out due to repetitive ‘Evergreen content keywords’ such as “Kanye West album”, “things to do in la” or “flu symptoms”. Google has been working here evaluating the algorithms for brands and keyword categorizations (News vs. Evergreen). The transitions between them are now quite fluid.

2. The “plight” of comparison and classified sites?

For brand keywords, price comparison sites are in direct competition to Google, and are having a hard time competing with Google’s internal services. This relates especially to Product Listing Ads and the sense that Google would like to have more diversity on transactional Keywords.

The impact of Panda 4.1 on ‘’ was similar to the effect it had on the job portal ‘’, where brand keywords lost out (in the latter case you can also see the step-by-step loss due to Panda 4.1). But this does not mean that you should write Listing or comparison sites off. I believe that those who put hard work into the mission to create an additional benefit for the user (for exemple through a higher variety of products), will still benefit in the future, since there is no reason for Google then, to direct the user just to shops. Yet, Google will of course try to avoid one-sided search results and ranking price comparisons for transactional keywords.

However, the coupon provider has now come back stronger than before. I’m curious how this will develop further, since Google is continually working on the SERPs.

3. Directories/aggregators (e.g.: Lyrics) on a downward trend – with some exceptions!

Finally, a brief comment on the topic of aggregators using the example of Lyric portals ( etc.), which shows that, by utilizing other trends, it is possible to make a positive difference.

Lyrics portals – just as many online reference-services  – belong to the group of domains that have lost visibility in 2014 (and before). So what is the problem here? Duplicate content! What value does it provide to the user when a site offers content that is replicated umpteen times in the same way? Poor user signals are pre-programmed here, because sites get lost in the crowd without standing out. It is the same with industry address directory portals. shows that there is another way:

SEO Visibility

Although the domain is German and not in English, and it has a German navigation menu, the page has seen a steady increase in SEO Visibility despite some issues towards the end of 2013.

One reason for the good ranking in is of course the amount of English content, namely the lyrics themselves. But if you look at the page, the probable reason for their competitive advantage becomes clear:


The site belongs to the ProSieben Sat1 family (a large German private channel group), and it co-operates with its sister sites, myVideo and AMPYA, whose music videos are integrated alongside the lyrics. In addition, a complete artist playlist opens immediately. On its own, this measure increases the time on page hugely (buzz word: User signals). There is unique content on the site (for example, current news), surveys & quizzes for user interaction, text translations and user accounts. There are numerous comments each landing page I have clicked, showing strong user interaction.

Admittedly, this is a page with a great brand and strong collaborations, but they do it right. How many similar projects, even for major brands, have we seen fail? To be part of a great brand often makes things more difficult, not easier. However, the added value offered to the user is clear, and this adds to the positive development – which is opposite to the trend of their competitors.

Conclusion: quality, value, user signals – RELEVANCE

It cannot be said often enough: The focus is relevance, but beyond that, you have to stand by USPs of the competition to generate user loyalty. Only those sites that provide the user with an added value that maintains loyalty (in any context), will have long-term success. User signals are, in my opinion, the most important metrics by which relevance is evaluated, as the user signals only increase where there is something of value to find.

In addition, Google has been working on brand keyword rankings, which have affected both price comparison sites and news portals. The latter also shows that Google has tinkered with keyword categorization that partially overlaps with brand-categories.

And one last thing, which is rather a fun fact… even was among the losers in the US Index, since a loss of even 2.5 percent in absolute terms is crucial.

Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober

My name is Marcus Tober and I’m the founder of Searchmetrics. Because we really love to analyze all kinds of online data, we can give you more insights than any other company in SEO, SEM and Social Media. It’s not a job, it’s passion.

14 thoughts on “The Rising and Falling Stars in Google US

  • Lots of ups and downs in seo visibility. Redirection is remarkable from them.

    In my case, I’ve noticed an important thing in Google, you might’ve too.

    When we redirect old url to a new one, the new one gets indexed first. Two pages (both old and new) will keep showing up on search results until Google updates the old.

    In the meanwhile, Google trails the pages to rank lower because of duplicate content. But that’s temporary, will be raised as soon as they update the pages.

    The same thing might have happened for those sites with redirection problem.

  • In other news, Google bum f***s another 10 million websites.

  • Surprised by down. Would be interesting to find out why.

  • 2014 was a year in which Google rolled out their different Algorithm Updates back to back. Many websites got a hit and many others achieved their place on the web. I work with an E-commerce firm called “” which got a good ranking by Google and became a brand name for Gemstones dealing.

  • Ezequiel Segner 2015/02/14 at 7:32 am

    The outstanding Google’s conference which is specially organised for the wonderful developers will be occurring earlier this year. According to Pichai it will take place on 28th and 29th May of this year and the registrations will start from 17th march 9 AM PDT to 19th march 5 PM PDT. If anybody wants to join it and he has also saved enough money to buy a ticket for it, but still possibility is that he/she might not get a chance to attend it as Google has decided to play a lottery system this year to choose the candidates to participate in the conference. So even if you have money, you might not be lucky enough to get a chance to go there and encounter Google’s latest trends and gifts. So gather enough luck and try for it. Source :

  • good One…Thank you for sharing this information….Keep it up..waiting for next Blog….

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  • Hey fishing, thanks for the feedback!

  • New Penguin update is coming soon…that may affect the SERP of many websites as well.

  • Hi

    last penguine update in 2014 changed many sites serp and now it’s coming in 2016 and it will also effect many sites.


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