Google algorithm update analysis: June 18th - 23rd 2020

Sam Underwood
Sam Underwood
July 1, 2020
6 mins read

June 18th - 23rd 2020 update summary

  • Law & government sites saw an average 7.62% gain in visibility.
  • News & media saw an average 5.47% drop from the update.
  • From performing a SERP analysis, it seems Google prefers sites that specialise in a topic-area rather than generalists with this update. For example, scooter/bike sites now rank better for 'best scooter' than a general review or news site.
  • The strong impact on law & government sites could be another sign of the above; government sites are the authority in their topic area, so they've seen substantial gains in visibility.

It's that time again! Google has released a relatively large algorithm update which has been widely accepted as a June 18th - June 23rd release date.

There seems to have been multiple noticeable updates within a short space of time, as Glenn kindly mentioned via Twitter, these updates may be one single update, or multiple different ones. It's quite hard to say for sure.

Now it has been a 1 - 2 weeks since the update(s) and the dust has started to settle, I thought I'd release some data showing the types of sites impacted most.

My methodology

My primary data source used is Sistrix, mostly due to the easy to use and relatively low-cost API.

I've collated a list of the top 100 sites across 22 different industries, 2,200 sites in total.

One metric you'll see me mention is SERP flux; it's something I've created to measure volatility in each site category.

All this metric does is count the number of domains in each industry that have had percentage changer higher than a set value.

Law + government sites have been impacted the most.

One key finding is that government sites were impacted more than any other site.

Just like medic had a significant impact on medical websites, this update seems to have had the most substantial effect on law + government sites.

Correlation ≠ causation

Be aware; this does not mean Google rolled this algorithm out specifically to increase the visibility of government sites.

It could just mean that government sites tend to have the attributes Google was looking for when making algorithm adjustments.

Considering these updates are made to ensure top-ranking sites in SERPs better align to EAT principles, it makes sense for government sites to rank well given they are the authority in their topic area.

Here are the top winners in the law + government category.

wdt_IDDomain% visibility change

The largest winners since the update

Across the entire dataset, here are the sites that saw the most significant % increase in visibility.

wdt_IDDomain% visibility change

What is quite interesting about a lot of these sites is a lot of them seem to have a rocky history with algorithm updates.

It seems Google can't quite figure out where they should be ranking them.

image 36
newham.gov.uk visibility history
leovegas gov sistrix visibility
leovegas.com visibility history
birmingham gov sistrix visibility
birmingham.gov visibility history

And here are the ones who saw the largest overall traffic increases.

wdt_IDDomainAbsolute visibility change

One huge improvement is the change Pinterest has since for this update.

image 37
Pinterest's visibility change from the update

I did tweet about this when I first spotted it.

But from some further investigation, this seems like the .com site has started ranking in place of the .co.uk site.

pinterest visibility change
pinterest.co.uk vs pinterest.com Sistrix visibility

The main gov.uk site is one significant change in visibility that I wanted to investigate further.

gov uk sistrix visibility
gov.uk visibility change

By looking at the SERP change for 'adopt a child', we can gain some insight into what Google is trying to do with this update.

adopt a child serp compared
Sistrix SERP compare for 'adopt a child'

Barnardos is a children's support charity, and One Adoption is an adoption agency.

To me, this looks like a positive change. Searching 'adopt a child' is an early research search query. The first thing you should be reading, in this case, is, laws, legalities and the process of adoption.

The government site is always going to be the most authoritative source of information on that topic.

The most significant declines since the update

A variety of different sites are dropping from this update, here are the top 25 drops.

wdt_IDDomainAbsolute visibility change

One thing that stands out from this is that there are quite a few news and media sites seeing significant decreases in visibility.

When you look at the average percentage change across each industry, news and media sites are being seen less in search than any other type of site.

So, who is replacing these news and media sites?

I investigated a lot of SERPs and spotted a trend with Google seeming to favour specialist sites over non-specialist sites providing reviews on a topic.

For example, see the below comparison for the 'best scooter' SERP from before and after the update.

In blue I've highlighted generic sites providing reviews, in orange are sites that specialise in content on that topic.

best scooter serp compare
Sistrix SERP compare for 'best scooters'

For 'birthday poems', Google is just dropping the position of the generic news site, and leaving behind sites that have more topical authority in that area.

birthday poems serp compare
Sistrix SERP compare for 'birthday poems'

And the same trend again for 'best campgrounds'

best campgrounds serp compare
Sistrix SERP compare for 'best campgrounds'

To me, this all seems like a positive move. From performing a manual analysis on a wide variety of SERPs that have seen significant changes, they all look like improvements.

A move from Google to begin better ranking specialist sites within a topic area shouldn't come as a surprise. The EAT principles Google uses to evaluate the quality of SERPs and algorithms look to better show authoritative sites in search results.

Even looking way back before EAT principles were public knowledge, concepts such a topic-sensitive PageRank were well known as something Google could be doing to better highlight sites that are authorities within a specific topic area.

Summary

We're still in the early days of this update, and it'll be interesting to see what others find from their analysis.

If you want to see what other SEO's are saying, make sure to check the Search Engine Roundtable post here.

I'm planning on turning the process used to gather the data within this piece for ongoing analysis into algorithm updates in the future, so make sure to subscribe below if you'd like to be kept in the loop for future pieces.

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