Trying to stay on top of all of the changes that Google throws our way can give you whiplash before long, and we’ve found that to be particularly true recently. While the powerful search engine is always rapidly evolving in ways both big and small, the last few months have really been a whirlwind of new updates coming our way.
One of the most recent of these changes was Google’s diversity algorithm update, which was designed to improve diversity in the SERPs, improving the user experience in the process.
The diversity algorithm is already in action and affecting some sites, so let’s take a look at exactly what the changes did and what they mean for you.
What Is the Google Diversity Update?
In early June, Google pre-announced that they would soon be releasing an update to the algorithm that was designed to aid in “site diversity.” In the announcement, they explained that this was designed in an attempt to offer more diverse SERPs to users on Google by trying to limit multiple (two or more) results from the same sites in a single search.
Before the update, it wasn’t difficult for a few high-authority sites to dominate big keywords organically just by trying to rank for them. Imagine being a small shoe store trying to rank against Nike for terms like “running shoes” and “cross-trainers,” only to find that they have several listings that show up organically for each search.
This is all about improving the user experience before more diverse site listings in the top SERP results can give them more options to choose from.
The diversity algorithm update was rolled out on June 6th, and Moz’s studies (which we’ll look at in just a minute) started noticing changes as early as the 6th and 7th of June.
What Counts as an “Organic Listing”
This sounds self-explanatory, but there’s so much nuance in search engine marketing that it’s good to take a close look at the details.
Sub-domains, for example, are treated as part of the main domain, meaning that it will count towards the two results. That being said, they’ll be treated as separate sites when it comes to diversity purposes if Google deems appropriate because Google wants to increase site diversity, not just topic diversity. Right now, according to their original announcement, it seems like this may be judged on a case-by-case basis.
The original announcement also clarified that the update will only impact core results, meaning the main tab in the SERPs. Top stories, video snippets, image carousels, and other search features are not currently affected by the site diversity algorithm. Those are still all fair game, so try to optimize your content for that (or create content for it, if necessary) to try to take advantage of the greater opportunity that’s currently there. Despite this, they did stress that the site diversity update was not part of the overall core update that rolled out in early June; this one was separate.
The Impact of Google’s Diversity Algorithm Update
Many sites aren’t crazy about the idea of having their SERP potential thwarted, but keep in mind that many are targeting diverse keywords for this reason; a fuller keyword profile means that you’re showing up in more searches, not necessarily showing up more often in the same search. It benefits you more to cast a wider net here.
Even in spite of this, it seems like the current diversity update didn’t have a major impact on most sites across the board. According to a recent Moz study that carefully tracked the changes, there was relatively minimal impact on the SERPs overall. After using a 10,000 keyword set, they watched the average diversity across the first page of SERPs and saw that site diversity shifted from 90.23% to 90.72% after the algorithm was updated.
Image source: Moz
In the chart above (which comes from the same study), you can see that jump in site diversity on the page-one SERPs. You can also see that it stays pretty consistent afterward, meaning that the update held true.
What This Means for You
The vast majority of sites aren’t going to be heavily impacted by this.
There will be a very small percentage of sites that may see a second organic listing drop off the map for certain searches; if this is the case, then your best bet will be to reoptimize those specific pages for more diverse keywords to trigger placements in completely different searches.
Many more sites, however, may see a small bump in their ranking and positioning for certain keywords as other sites have one or more listing that gets dropped. If you’re hovering towards the top of the second page of the SERPs, after all, it only takes a single listing to fall away for you to get your shot.
It’s important to note that plenty of sites won’t be affected at all. Their page rankings won’t shift due to this particular update, at least not at this point in time. If the diversity algorithm is rehashed at a later point that may change, but for now such a small portion of page one rankings are affected and the percentage changes are so slight that this isn’t something to stress over unless you’re seeing your position drop for certain duplicate positionings.
The bottom line comes down to this: if you didn’t see a shift in any of your page rankings on June 6th or 7th, there’s a good chance that you weren’t affected by the diversity update as of yet. There are so many updates happening and different factors that can determine ranking– including just whatever everyone else around you is doing in the marketplace– that it can be difficult to know exactly what’s causing what results. SEO doesn’t allow us to live in a bubble, after all, so slight changes in positioning are to be expected over time.
When in doubt, remember that it’s best to have a diverse keyword profile. It will often benefit you more to have a fighting chance at more page-one rankings than trying to land multiple pages on the exact same search results page. This will expand your reach and will prevent you from getting hit with this update, so it’s a win-win all the way around.
Want a little extra help getting your site climbing towards the top of the SERPs? We’ve got you covered. Get in touch to learn more about our SEO services and what we can do for you.