Rank Ranger Blog

Google Hits Major Sites with May 18th Update


Recently, there has been some industry speculation that Google rolled-out an algorithm update circa May 18th. Indeed we tracked an increase in rank fluctuations on our Rank Risk Index, indicating that an update was pushed over at Google. Making use of a unique SEO tool that we plan on bringing to the market in the upcoming future, we've determined that Google has hit some major sites within the retail and consumer goods industry that has shaken the rankings a bit. 


Increased Rank Fluctuations May 18th 



To provide a bit of background, on May 18th we tracked an increase in rank fluctuations on our index. This one day event saw our risk level jump from a calm 65 on May 17th, to a more elevated score of 71 on the 18th itself. As noted by Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable, there was not much industry chatter on the forums which made understanding the fluctuations difficult at best. 

Rank Risk Index May 18 Spike
The Rank Risk Index showing an increase in rank fluctuations on May 18th 


Are Featured Snippets Behind the Rank Fluctuations? 



Since the industry first noticed the update, it's been proposed that Featured Snippets are the culprit. As you may know, Google has been running a test of sorts where it won't show the URL within a Featured Snippet and as part of the organic results per se. Meaning, a normal Featured Snippet score would mean a URL appears twice, once in the organic results and once within the Featured Snippet itself. Here, in some cases, Google has been showing the URL only within the Featured Snippet, not within the organic results as well. However, we've analyzed this data, and this began on May 12th. It did not have a major impact on the rankings. In fact, since May 12th, roughly 4.5% of Featured Snippets have no corresponding URL in the organic results. This was the case on May 17th, just as it was on May 18th and as such it cannot explain the increase in rank fluctuations.

So what then is behind the spike?

 

Explaining the Update - Major Retail Sites See Shift 



As I mentioned, we are in the process of releasing a new tool that analyzes ranking data for various niche industries and the domains within them. The obvious point being to help not only monitor overall rankings trends, but to help shed some light on what occurred within a given Google update. Here we've found that Google has made changes to how it displays the pages of some the biggest retail sites. 

To substantiate this I'm going to offer a sneak-peek into just some of the data we track by going into the numbers for Amazon, Best Buy, Overstock, and eBay. 

Amazon Sees Decreased SERP Presence 



To start off, let's look at Amazon, who is the leading site within the niche. 

During the update Amazon saw its: 

  • Visibility decrease by more than 7% 
  • Average rank fall .21 of a position to an average rank of 7.34
  • Market share decrease .54 percentage points of its total market share within the niche (Retail & Consumer Goods) 

What makes this data significant is how stable Amazon traditionally is. In fact if we take a look at how Amazon performed over the course of the entire month of April we see very little in the way of fluctuations. 


Data for Amazon Pre-update 



 Visibility April 1  Visibility April 30  Average Rank April 1 Average Rank April 30  Market Share April 1  Market Share April 30 
 7215  7205  
 7.11 7.06  
7.57%  7.56%  


The same holds true for how the site performed since the update, between May 21st and May 22nd. Here again, you'll notice a relatively stable performance as indicated below. 


Data for Amazon Post Update

 

 Visibility May 21  Visibility May 22  Average Rank May 21 Average Rank May 22 Market Share May 21 Market Share May 22
 6756  6645  
7.37 7.42  
6.97%  6.85% 


Now, you'll notice that while relatively stable, the numbers shown above are down some since April 30th. So how did we get here? Let's now look at the data during the update, between May 16 and May 20. 


Data for Amazon During the Update

 Visibility May 16  Visibility May 20  Average Rank May 16 Average Rank May 20 Market Share May 16 Market Share May 20
 7351 6825  
 7.13 7.34  
7.58%  7.04%  

Oddly enough, during the update you can clearly see Amazon's numbers shifting in abnormal ways, and in ways that were not in it's favor. 


Google Hits Best Buy and Overstock 

  

Similar to Amazon, two other major retail players were hit on the 18th as well, Best Buy and Overstock. Thus, it appears that Google was specifically targeting the bigger names in retail with the May 18th shift. 

Similar to what we showed in regards to Amazon, let's see how Best Buy and Overstock stacked up before, during, and after the update. 


Best Buy and Overstock Pre-update Data 

 

Domain Name  Visibility April 1  Visibility April 30  Average Rank April 1 Average Rank April 30  Market Share April 1  Market Share April 30 
Best Buy  1633  1695  
6.11 6.12 
1.71% 1.78%  
Overstock 2724 2713  
6.64 7.02  
2.86% 2.85%  


So not a lot of movement in the data for these two sites in April. Great, now let's see how the two sites performed between May 21 and 22nd.


Best Buy and Overstock Post Update Data 



Domain Name  Visibility May 21  Visibility May 22  Average Rank May 21 Average Rank May 22 Market Share May 21  Market Share May 22 
Best Buy  1497  1458  
6.02 6.16  
1.54% 1.50%  
Overstock 2200 2203  
7.83 7.82  
2.27% 2.27%   -


So just like with Amazon, relatively stable numbers after the update, but compared to April 30th, the numbers are down. Let's again see how we got here. Below is the data for the two sites between May 16th and 20th.


Best Buy and Overstock Data During Update 



Domain Name  Visibility May 16  Visibility May 20  Average Rank May 16 Average Rank May 20 Market Share May 16 Market Share May 20
Best Buy  1579  1469  
5.71 6.24   
7.58% 7.32%  
Overstock 2452 2216  
7.46 7.92  
2.53% 2.29%  


When you see the numbers for the sites relative to those before and after the update you can clearly see the impact of the May 18th Google activity. Overstock lost over 10% of its visibility while Best Buy saw it's average rank lowered by a half of a whole position! Of course the market share for both decreased as well. 



eBay - The Big  Google Update Winner



There was one big winner out of all of this, eBay! Like Amazon, and like both Best Buy and Overstock, when we looked at the data pre and post update, eBay was as stable as can be. However, during the update, while the other sites saw their numbers decrease, eBay got a nice little boost. In fact, eBay's average rank went up 1.1 positions. It also saw a 29% jump in visibility that resulted in its market share increasing by .39 percentage points. That's not to say eBay was the only winner, but out of the big sites, those with the top market share, eBay stood out above the crowd in a distinct way. 

Here's the raw data:  

eBay Data During the Update



 Visibility May 16  Visibility May 20  Average Rank May 16 Average Rank May 20 Market Share May 16 Market Share May 20
1271
1651  
12.18 11.7  
1.31 1.7  


Again, as you can clearly see, eBay did quite well for itself as a result of the recent update.



Even the Big Sites Aren't Safe



To be clear, I'm not saying that major sites were penalized by Google in any way whatsoever. In fact, I would venture to say that this has to do more with Google simply trying to meet what the users may want (versus Amazon, or Best Buy, Overstock, etc. engaging in poor SEO practices). At the same time, it goes to show you just how far-reaching the Google dance is, and that Google doesn't discriminate who it chooses to dance with! 




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