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Will SMEs benefit from Google’s diversity update?

Business search

Will SMEs benefit from Google’s diversity update?

Last month, Google revealed that it was making an algorithm change that would lead to a wider variety of results being returned for a search term, something that could help smaller businesses get a foothold on the first page of results.

Referred to by Google as a ‘site diversity change’, the update aims to make sure that no more than two pages from the same domain appear among the top results. It addresses situations where the top results for a search are taken by a single website, with online retail giant Amazon an example of a site that tends to dominate the rankings.

Via his Google SearchLiaison Twitter account, Google’s Public Liaison of Search Danny Sullivan stressed that the change will not spell the end of more than two results from one domain on the first page, as there may still be times when the algorithms deem one domain to be particularly relevant to the query. Instead it will focus on delivering a greater breadth of results, with even results from a different subdomain classed as duplicates if they share a root domain.

With Amazon being a place to buy almost anything, this change gives hope to small independent retailers, who may feel that they are being bullied off the first page by e-retail superpowers.

Is it working?

According to a study, yes. The difference is not enormous, but the days of certain sites monopolising the top positions in the rankings seem to be coming to an end.

New research by Searchmetrics compares search results from late June, after the algorithm change had taken effect, with ones from March 2019. The study compares “thousands of keywords” to determine how many of them are returning multiple results from the same domain, and how this compares to three months ago.

A graph shows that in March, fewer than half (47.9%) of these keywords only returned one top result per site. This figure has now crept above half to 52.3%.

The number of keywords for which one site claims two of the top results has increased a little from 43.6% to 44.2%, but Google does appear to be keeping good on its word to clamp down on any further hogging of the rankings. The percentage of keywords returning results from the same site has been slashed from 6.7% to 3.5%, and none of the tested keywords were taken by the same site four times, compared to 1.3% previously. In summary, Google is now returning no more than two sites among the top results for 96.5% of results, compared to 91.5% in March.

The size and financial muscle of the bigger firms still represents power in the rankings, and the report suggests in its conclusion that we may see them invest more in paid advertising, but the results are encouraging for smaller businesses. Those who invest in search engine optimisation and content development now stand a better chance of getting their site among the top results, and even if paid ads become the preference of Amazon and suchlike, they can take heart in the recent finding that the vast majority of Google users prefer the organic results.

John Murray

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