Google reportedly rolled out a new quality update in June that went under the radar for many website owners. The company has not confirmed the update as of the time of writing this article, but reports of major search engine ranking changes are popping up on a daily basis since June.
Roy Hinkis of SimilarWeb conducted a study to determine which sites have benefitted most from the update.
News sites were the clear winner of the quality update, leading to a newly refreshed debate over the importance of content freshness.
The new update points to a major jump in organic search traffic for news sites. New York Post has had a 155% spike in traffic between May and June. Businessinsider.com had over a 60% spike in traffic, with Fox News and the LA Times both receiving a near 60% increase in organic search traffic.
The report points to the Finance category being the biggest gainer, with a 16% bump, News and Media had increased traffic of 14%, while Games had a traffic increase of 13%. Numerous categories suffered losses, too: Career and Education, How to/Ask an Expert, and Books and Literature suffered a 25%, 20% and 13% drop respectively in organic search traffic since June.
Google’s update puts news sites higher in the search rankings, even periodically, allowing for further visibility and potential to gain traffic. Facebook took an opposite approach, changing their news feed content to include fewer articles and pages in an effort to boost advertiser activity.
The study looked at the top 100,000 websites in the United States with data from May 2016. The data was compared for organic search results only between May and June to determine the trend following the update.
“Content freshness has become increasingly important,” according to PSM Marketing’s Kristy Guslik.
Amit Singhal, a Former Google employee, explained that “different searches have different freshness needs.” Content freshness is based on the keywords included in a query, according to Guslik. “NHL scores” or “Google earnings” would require updated content to remain relevant. Google has the data to determine which queries would demand stringent content freshness requirements.
Sports scores can change in minutes, while “Dallas shootings” or “Dallas updates” may require frequent updates initially before these requirements taper off.
Data scoring based off of a Google Patent indicate that the score of a document may need to be adjusted over time. A document will be given a score based on inception. This allows the content to be ranked higher initially, with the inception scoring factor degrading over time to eliminate any benefits the freshness of the document provided.
An algorithm based on the patent would allow Google to rank news sites higher and then taper off the sites’ rankings over time so that they aren’t the only pages listed on the top of the search results.
Older content also seems to be favored by Google. Aged content can often outrank the competition, and this isn’t necessarily the right direction for Google, and it’s not the best application for news sites that focus on up-to-date news.
Webmasters are also reporting that click-through-rates from AdWords campaigns are impacting search results. One user is stated as saying, “My client turned off AdWords and their search engine rankings dropped significantly.”
Many website owners pointed to a June 28 reduction in traffic for large sites. Before the traffic fell, crawl rates spiked. The queries in the sites’ niches also had the search results on the first page reduced to 7 or 8 results, with many sites ranking several times on the first page.