Google's Second Change in a Week to Focus on Site Diversity in Search Results
Hot on the heels of the June 2019 Core Update, Google has announced yet another update to how they rank and display search results with the stated goal to “provide more site diversity” in their search results.
Have you ever done a search and gotten many listings all from the same site in the top results? We've heard your feedback about this and wanting more variety. A new change now launching in Google Search is designed to provide more site diversity in our results….— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 6, 2019
This update started rolling out 2 days ago (on June 5) and is fully live today (June 7).
It looks like Google is referring to this update as the “site diversity” update (they don’t really name their updates anymore) while many in the SEO industry are using “site diversity” or “domain diversity” update.
What is the Site Diversity Update?
You might have noticed in the past that search results for some keywords list 4 or 5 (or even more!) pages from a single website in the top results. Site diversity will limit websites to just 2 pages in the top results for a single query.
This site diversity change means that you usually won't see more than two listings from the same site in our top results. However, we may still show more than two in cases where our systems determine it’s especially relevant to do so for a particular search….— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 6, 2019
Here are the key takeaways from the Search Liaison Twitter thread:
Since nothing is ever straightforward in SEO, when Google decides it’s best to show more than 2 results from a single site they will do so.
For the purposes of site diversity, subdomains will be considered part of the main domain.
Site diversity apparently won’t apply to country-specific domains or sub-domains (although maybe this will change).
Those are completely different domains. Same company; different geo domains. But it's a good point. I'll pass this feedback on. We expect to keep improving on the change.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 7, 2019
Site diversity only impacts the organic search results, meaning just the traditional “10 blue links”. SERP features such as the map pack, carousels or featured snippets won’t count against a site’s 2-page limit.
It’s unrelated to the June 2019 Core Update, despite the fact that the releases are only a few days apart. So you could see your site’s data in WooRank, Analytics and Search Console impacted by both.
Site diversity is still a bit of a work in progress. If you try hard enough, you can find examples of search results dominated by a single website.
It's not going to be perfect. As with any of our releases, we'll keep working to improve it. You might also try it the way someone in Tustin would do it -- "nail salons" or "nail salons near me" or "nail salons tustin." If you're in Tustin, you know you're in CA :)— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 6, 2019
- It’s not targeting any particular industry, niche, topic or vertical.
Is this targeting any niche in particular more so than others? For example "flight" and "real estate" related queries seem to always be heavily dominated by recurring domains.— Ben Poulton (@BennyPoulton) June 6, 2019
A note about rankings
If you scroll down a few messages in the announcement thread, you’ll see Danny Sullivan specify that the changes to results around site diversity are “not really about ranking” and pages that “ranked highly before still should”. However, you’ll see a response from one person mention the fact that if you have multiple pages listed in search results and one is removed from the first page, that’s that page losing positions:
No, it potentially affects traffic. If you had four different pages all doing the right things in terms of content and quality to reach the top page, then your ranking efforts are on the right track. And this doesn't mean they aren't as good. It just means we won't show as many.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 6, 2019
And he’s got a point. If you had 3 pages in search results — say in the first, third and seventh spots — that third page dropped in the rankings from seventh to something on the second page. However, focusing so much on just rankings can cause you to miss the bigger picture of your site’s usability, accessibility quality.
This can cause you to jump to conclusions or make assumptions that aren’t valid and make changes that will negatively impact your rankings.
How You Should Respond
Trying to fill up the Google search results with URLs from a single domain isn’t a very popular SEO strategy. Although it is used more frequently as part of a reputation management strategy.
And since, as Sullivan pointed out, this change isn’t really an “update” in the way we typically think of them and doesn’t seek to impact rankings, there’s not a whole lot you can do.
If you are targeting a single keyword with multiple pages, or you have more than 2 pages that rank for the same keyword, and you see a big impact on traffic starting today, keep an eye on those pages in the Google Search Console Performance report to see which queries they’re ranking for.
Have you seen any impact on your site’s traffic? Let us know!