Which websites made the most significant gains in Google search in 2019? Which domains find themselves amongst the year’s biggest losers? Searchmetrics has crunched the numbers and can reveal the top winners and losers of the past 12 months, based on performance in the organic search results on Google.com. In particular, two of Google’s Core Updates had a huge impact on the search results: the March 2019 Core Update and the September 2019 Core Update. Looking at websites by topic, many health and dictionary websites experienced big ups and downs during 2019. Find out more by reading the full analysis here. By the way: You can stay up-to-date with all relevant news about SEO and Content Marketing by reading our monthly newsletter – sign up now for free:
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The analysis of winners and losers is based on how domains’ SEO Visibility developed throughout 2019, looking at the week-on-week changes for all websites in our US Google index. The lists are sorted by absolute increase or decrease in SEO Visibility over the course of the year. We have excluded websites offering adult content or unofficial streaming websites, as well as domain migrations.
Top 100 Winners
The list of the biggest winners of 2019 contains a large number of online publishers who made big gains in their SEO Visibility in 2019. If we look a little closer, we see that whilst there are some general-interest publishers amongst the winners, there are also a striking number of publishers that focus on specific topics like film, tech, cars or celebrity news.
|Rank||Domain||SEO Visibility Increase (absolute)||SEO Visibility Increase in %|
The following table shows a selection of loser domains that suffered a significant decline in their organic visibility during 2019. Like the list of winners, the loser domains are sorted by absolute change in SEO Visibility. Please note, we have only included domains here that lost at least 10% of their SEO Visibility over the course of 2019. Please also note that inclusion in this list does not necessarily mean that these websites have suffered an equivalent loss in traffic or turnover – this is just an indicator of how much their presence in the unpaid search results on Google.com has declined.
|Domain||SEO Visibility Decrease (absolute)||SEO Visibility Decrease in %|
Google search developments in 2019: The most important updates
The winners and losers of 2019 are largely websites that felt the impact, be it negative or positive, of Google Updates. For this reason, our analysis looks at how these updates affected the performance of different websites.
Google Core Updates shake up the search results in 2019
In 2019, the story of the year’s winners and losers closely matches the story of the year’s Google Updates. Rarely have the Google Updates so clearly shaped the fate of the year’s biggest winners and losers. The largest contributors to ranking ups and downs were four Core Updates. The heaviest impact on winners and losers came from the March 2019 Core Update, followed by the September 2019 Core Update. By comparison, the June and November Core Updates created smaller waves in the search results.
The BERT Update, although it garnered considerable attention in the SEO community, had comparatively little impact on the SEO Visibility of domains – largely because this update primarily improved Google’s ability to understand long-tail and voice search queries.
||Features of the Google Update
|Google January 2020 Core Update||January 13th 2020||
The first official Core Update of 2020 was rolled out on 13th January 2020. There is not yet any information regarding its impact. With this update, Google continues its communication strategy of (pre-)announcing Core Updates on Twitter.
|Google’s announcement via Twitter|
|Google Update November 2019||November 7th 2019||
Webmasters in the USA who run affiliate sites have observed massive changes in the travel, food and health sectors. Google has not commented on the changes, but SEO experts have described the update as “aggressive”.
|Post-update confirmation via Twitter|
|Google BERT Update||24th October 2019||
It’s the biggest change to Google’s algorithm for five years, affecting one in ten search queries. With the Google BERT Update, Google aims to improve the interpretation of complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results.
|Google’s explanation in a Blogpost|
|Google September 2019 Core Update||24th September 2019||
The September 2019 Core Update was rolled-out globally, starting on the 24th of September. This Google Update focused on improvements in the content quality in the SERPs. For the second time, Google pre-announced a core algorithm update in advance.
|Google announcement on Twitter|
|Google June 2019 Core Update||3rd June 2019||Google set a new precedent with its “June 2019 Core Update” by, for the first time in the history of Google Updates, announcing the roll-out of a major core algorithm change in advance. This update was the second major update of 2019 altering the core algorithm, and was rolled out on the 3rd of June, as preannounced.» Google June 2019 Core Update||Google announcement on Twitter|
|Google March 2019 Core Update||12th March 2019||In this global core algorithm update, there were ranking shifts for keywords related to health and other sensitive topics. The algorithm was also adjusted to favor trust and expertise, as well as user signals.» Google March 2019 Core Update||Confirmation on Twitter|
Ongoing upheaval for health and dictionary websites
Google still seems to be unsure how to best evaluate websites in some industries. This is particularly true for websites that provide content dealing with YMYL subjects. YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) is an acronym used to describe sensitive subjects that could have a big impact on a user’s finances of physical health. Google seems to pay particular attention to rankings for keywords in these areas, like search queries related to health problems, as acting based on incorrect information could potentially have disastrous consequences for the user.
Accordingly, websites covering health topics have seen considerable fluctuation in their rankings for some time now, and this continued throughout 2019. Two of 2018’s big newcomers, verywellhealth.com and everydayhealth.com, are found amongst the websites who suffered the biggest losses in 2019, with both domains being particularly hurt by the March 2019 Core Update.
2019 was something of a rollercoaster for emedicinehealth.com: After the March Update brought a slight uptick, it saw huge gains following the June Core Update, only to start declining again from September. healthline.com is another website that has had a turbulent 12 months: it lost out in March, but was one of the beneficiaries of the June Core Update:
When one website drops, you can expect another to take its place. Some of these sites’ competitors in the health space were huge winners following the March Core Update. Here we see big jumps in March 2019 for medicalnewstoday.com and medicinenet.com.
Dictionaries and encyclopedias are another website category where numerous domains have seen dramatic increases and decreases in their SEO Visibility in recent years. For example, dictionary.com was one of the websites that dropped the furthest in 2018, but it has bounced back in 2019.
Other dictionary websites in the winner list include britannica.com, merriam-webster.com and vocabulary.com, whilst urbandictionary.com, thesaurus.com and thefreedictionary.com were on the sticky end of 2019’s Google Updates.
Losers hit by March and September Core Update double whammy
Looking through the list of losers, we see a recurring trend: Websites that lost SEO Visibility after Google’s March 2019 Core Update weren’t given long to regroup before being knocked down again by the September 2019 Core Update. This pattern can be observed for numerous websites that are amongst the biggest losers of 2019 – and from a range of industries, including the film platform imdb.com, urbandictionary.com, the job sites indeed.com and glassdoor.com, and the health site verywellhealth.com.
E-A-T losers regain some lost weight
In another reversal of previous misfortunes, a number of domains who were hardest hit by the E-A-T Updates of 2018 fared much better in 2019, with several making this year’s list of top winners. Examples include medicinenet.com and newsweek.com.
How was your 2019 in Google search? How were your websites affected by the Google Core Updates? Was 2019 a boom year or more of a bust? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below!