SEO Research 2019 Banner

A Review of our 2019 SEO Studies

December 18, 2019   |  
Posted by
Mordy Oberstein


SEO Research 2019 Banner

The better part of my job is the power to spend time pondering, analyzing, and researching something and all the pieces inside the world of Search. It’s in these moments the place I really feel I’m making a distinction by serving to advance the SEO dialog. With this sentimentality, let’s take a look again on 2019 and revisit some of the insights we have uncovered right here at Rank Ranger over the yr. 

Before we get into the analysis itself, I need to thank everybody on the Rank Ranger workforce from the enhancing crew to the event workforce. Though it is my identify on these research, it’s miles from a one-man present. Without the assistance of the complete workforce, there isn’t a approach I might be capable of convey these SEO insights to life. 

I particularly need to thank Levi Genesove for all of this diligent work, considerate recommendation, and numerous hours serving to with all the pieces from number-crunching to enhancing. I’d additionally prefer to thank our SEO supervisor Tzvi Barish for all of his assist and insights in addition to Rank Ranger founder Shay Harel for being a sounding board par excellence! 

Trends, Insights, and Data on Google’s Core and Unconfirmed Algorithm Updates


Cut Paper Fluctuations

I’ve typically talked about that there’s nothing as fertile than Google’s core updates for the newest insights into the underpinnings of Google’s relationship to internet content material and websites per se. At the identical time, isolating site-level tendencies may be each laborious and enigmatic. With every of 2019’s core algorithm updates, and at instances with Google’s unconfirmed updates, I’ve tried to supply a per area of interest rank volatility breakdown together with any site-level patterns that will have introduced themselves. To the latter, I’ve at instances have had nice success whereas in different cases have ended up greedy at straws. So it goes within the nice sport that’s analyzing Google’s algorithm. 

That stated, here’s a quick synopsis of what I’ve discovered over the course of the yr. 

Data on the March 2019 Core Update 

Believe it or not, however the March 2019 Core Update was the primary confirmed replace to observe the famed Medic Update. As such, it solely made good sense to check the facility and scope of the 2 core updates to one another. 

Overall, the Medic Update was considerably extra risky than the March 2019 Core Update. While sure niches, such because the Travel and Retail niches, did present extra volatility on the high of the SERP in March, the overall pattern clearly confirmed that Medic was the stronger algorithm change. This was  significantly true for the Health and Finance niches. 

See under for a full evaluation of the relative volatility seen throughout the two updates: 

Rank Volatility Comparison: Medic vs. March 2019 Update

With the March replace, there have been all kinds of hypothesis indicating the replace was a reversal of the Medic Update. From my evaluation, this was not the case. While there have been some websites impacted by Medic that displayed a reversal pattern, it was not the general sample. More than that, these websites didn’t see a full return of their rankings however quite a slight enhance that put them (on the entire) nowhere close to their former rating ranges. 


Niche Trends from the June 2019 Core Update

Just three months after releasing the March 2019 Core Update, Google blessed us with the second confirmed replace of 2019… the June 2019 Core Update. Isolating site-level tendencies for this explicit replace was unusually troublesome as Google unveiled its new domain diversity construct at the very same time because the June 2019 Core Update. 

That stated, on the area of interest degree the June replace continued the pattern the place Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites have been left extra impacted by a core replace. (Read my evaluation for extra on why the core replace YMYL pattern exists.) Looking under, the info signifies the Health and Finance niches being much more impacted by the replace than the Travel and Retail industries: 

Niche Data on the June 2019 Core Update

Nuanced Content Profiling with the September 2019 Core Update


If I preserve mentioning that discovering a pattern among the many websites hit by a Google replace is troublesome, it is as a result of it’s. However, each every so often you discover a gem. The September 2019 Core Update was one of these instances. 

The total volatility seen with the September replace was a bit on the low facet, not less than in comparison with the June replace. That stated, this was a core replace, and as you may see under, it introduced a big quantity of rank volatility with it: 

September 2019 Core Update Data

That stated, the fascinating information out of this replace was the way in which Google checked out content material. One of the themes inside this replace (as there are lots of tendencies and themes inside any replace) was the way in which Google virtually appeared capable of perceive tone. When trying on the knowledge that got here out of the replace I seen that quite a lot of mortgage websites misplaced a big quantity of their rankings.

My preliminary thought after some of these websites was that they have been victims of having skinny and templated content material. However, a deeper investigation confirmed that websites with a prolific quantity of content material have been nonetheless negatively impacted by the replace. Upon nearer investigation, it grew to become obvious that the use of advertising and marketing language in inappropriate locations was a problem for these websites (together with not providing sufficient info on the loans themselves and whereas providing an excessive amount of info on methods to safe one). 

In different phrases, and customarily talking, websites that mentioned mortgage particulars from a purely informative level of view maintained secure rankings whereas these websites that spattered their informational content material with marketing-like phrasing have been topic to being negatively impacted by the replace. 


Analyzing the July 2019 Unconfirmed Update

Yes, I’m nicely conscious that July comes earlier than September. However, being that the July replace was not a confirmed core replace, I’m putting it out of sequential order for our functions right here. 

The cause we’re speaking about this unconfirmed replace versus the handfuls of others Google releases is because of the extraordinarily excessive ranges of rank fluctuations introduced by the replace: 

July 2019 Update Rank Fluctuations

Accordingly, the rank volatility among the many numerous niches throughout the replace rivaled that which was seen throughout the June 2019 Core Update: 

Data on the July 2019 Google Update

Of course, the key takeaway right here is that unconfirmed updates can rival the confirmed core updates and shouldn’t be ignored. 

As far because the websites impacted themselves, there was not a selected YMYL bent to this replace (which furthers the idea that the core updates have their very own agenda). In truth, not like a core replace, it was extraordinarily exhausting to discover a constant site-level sample (far tougher than normal that’s).

There have been some fascinating “reversals” nonetheless. Specifically, I seen that there have been a pleasant quantity of websites that noticed sluggish sustained development from the beginning of July which then noticed these rating beneficial properties washed away by the July replace: 

July 2019 Update Ranking Loss

At the identical time, there was additionally a bunch of websites that noticed huge rating will increase because the replace rolled in solely to see these beneficial properties eradicated throughout the second day of the replace’s rollout: 

July 2019 Update Quick Rank Reversal

Featured Snippet Research in 2019 


Page Data Analysis Banner

Though I did not plan it as such from the onset, I spent loads of time targeted on Featured Snippets in 2019. As I stated, this was not intentional. It was extra a case of doing one examine that bought me excited about one thing else which led to a different examine and so forth. 

That stated, what we discovered with our collection of Featured Snippets research was some of essentially the most fascinating “stuff” we have produced. 

On Featured Snippet URL Stability 

For our first examine of 2019, we took 350 key phrases that produced Featured Snippets and analyzed them over a 30-day and 90-day interval to find out how typically Google swapped out URLs inside a Featured Snippet. As half of this evaluation, we additionally checked out what number of URLs Google is making use of inside the common Featured Snippet over each a 30-day and 90-day interval. 

The knowledge confirmed that on common Google makes use of 1.7 URLs making 2.2 swaps over a 30-day interval, with the info being comparatively proportionate over a 90-day interval: 

Featured Snippet URL Swap Data

That stated, completely different intents and key phrase variants yielded barely completely different outcomes. For instance, key phrases that contained the phrase finest when related to a services or products (as in finest on-line dealer or finest freezer) underwent extra URL swaps inside the Featured Snippets: 

Featured Snippet URL Swaps - 'Best' Keywords

Featured Snippet URL Market Share

Our examine on Featured Snippet URL swaps left me questioning how a lot market share was given to every URL utilized for a selected Featured Snippet. If Google is utilizing roughly 1.7 URLs inside a Featured Snippet over a 30-day interval (as was proven by the examine) how a lot time was every URL getting inside a Featured Snippet? 

To reply this we analyzed 300 Featured Snippet producing key phrases that utilized solely two URLs over a 30-day interval (since you may’t truly discover a Featured Snippet making use of 1.7 URLs over 30-days). 

What we discovered was that when a snippet makes use of simply two URLs there’s a clear favourite with one URL garnering 77% of the market share over 30 days: 

Featured Snippet Market Share Data

Of course, we nonetheless questioned what occurred when a Featured Snippet made use of greater than two URLs over 30 days. So, we took a take a look at Featured Snippets that made use of three URLs over a 30-day interval and located Google nonetheless strongly prefers one of the URLs carried out: 

Featured Snippet Market Share - 3 URLs

Naturally, there are a ton of implications from this knowledge associated to how and when to focus on Featured Snippets! 

Mobile vs. Desktop Featured Snippet Consistency 

Is a Featured Snippet win on desktop an automated win on cellular (and vice versa)? It’s a superb query that I used to be a bit stunned to search out had not been tackled till our examine launched on October 23, 2019!

Surprise, shock, the synchronicity of Featured Snippet URLs throughout gadgets just isn’t as robust as you’ll intuitively suppose. If you take into account cases the place just one system reveals with a Featured Snippet on a given day… there’s a 30% schism! That is to say, when you win a desktop Featured Snippet that win is not going to translate to cellular 30% of the time (over the course of 30-days).  

Data on Mobile & Desktop Featured Snippet Uniformity

Even contemplating days the place a key phrase produces a Featured Snippet on each desktop and cellular there’s a 10% divide. Meaning, 10% of the time Google will present a distinct Featured Snippet URL on cellular than the one being proven on desktop. That’s nonetheless fairly excessive in my estimation! 

How Long are Featured Snippets? 


Did the common paragraph Featured Snippet is 269 characters whereas the common listing Featured Snippet is 315 characters? It’s true. However, it is solely half the story as listing Featured Snippets are 9% longer than they as soon as have been whereas paragraph snippets are about 5% shorter than they have been beforehand!  

Paragraph Featured Snippet Length Data

What’s the commonality between Featured Snippets getting longer when within the listing format and shorter when proven as a paragraph? Directly answering the question. A longer listing means extra full info which implies fewer clicks. At the identical time, a shorter paragraph snippets means much less content material bloating. It means the snippet is extra refined and may higher instantly reply the consumer’s question… which additionally means fewer clicks! 

Intent inside the People Also Ask Box 


No, the People Also Ask (PAA) field just isn’t technically a Featured Snippet however they do use the identical format… so I’m throwing this examine along with those we did on Featured Snippets per se. 

The PAA is field is in all places because it seems on roughly 50% of all web page one SERPs! With that, I used to be curious to understand how various are the intents mirrored by the preliminary 4 questions proven within the PAA field? 

And the reply is… fairly various as the common PAA field displays almost three distinctive intents!  

PAA Box Intent Breakdown

Interestingly sufficient, the primary intent mirrored by the primary query inside the PAA field obtained a double portion. That is, the preliminary intent inside the PAA field was mirrored inside a mean of almost two questions (whereas the opposite secondary intents every obtained a sign query apiece): 

Getting a Grasp on Google’s Entity Understanding 


Reflective Robot

Entity understanding is the longer term of SEO. I do know that is likely to be each a daring and in a approach untimely assertion, however I firmly imagine it. How nicely Google is at understanding entities instantly correlates to how nicely Google understands internet content material and the websites that content material resides on. 

To this, we revealed two case research: One displaying the limitation of Google’s entity understanding and one displaying how Google has made nice strides within the space. 

Google’s Ability to Understand Secondary Entity Profiles


I’m a nasty information first variety of man, so this is the dangerous information… Google has proven that it has a really exhausting time understanding an entity’s secondary profile. What do I imply by a secondary profile? I imply entities which have a number of identities. For instance, Ronald Reagan was each a well-known actor and a US president – two separate profiles. How do I do know Google just isn’t nice at choosing up on secondary profiles? Well, this is the Related Search bins you bought for Ronald Reagan a number of month’s again: 

Ronald Reagan Related Search Box

Not solely do these outcomes not mirror the entity’s secondary profile (i.e., being an actor) however the second field is fairly weird in its personal proper. 

The excellent news? Now if you seek for Ronald Reagan you get a Related Search field entitled Conservative Actors

Improved Profile Understanding Example

Meaning, since I revealed this case examine Google has certainly gotten much better and understanding an entity’s secondary profile! It’s nonetheless removed from the place it must be, as many of the examples I spotlight nonetheless do not contact on the entity’s secondary profile, however it’s a superb begin.

Google Leaps Forward with Entity Sub-Classification

Whereas understanding an entity’s a number of profiles has confirmed troublesome for Google, drilling down into an entity and subclassifying it has been a relative cinch! In this case examine, I went via how Google is getting mighty good at classifying segments of an entity’s identification. To spotlight this we checked out a plethora of Knowledge Panels associated to sports activities groups highlighting the varied methods Google has segmented the subject of “players” inside these panels.  

What we discovered Google doing was taking the ‘gamers’ ingredient inside these panels and classifying them additional. For occasion, versus simply indicating a tab for ‘gamers’ inside the Knowledge Panel, Google has began displaying a subclassification entitled “Famous Players.” At instances, Google will get extraordinarily particular by even displaying a tab for a particular place of a participant that’s extremely related to the workforce in query because it does right here for the NY Giants American soccer workforce:

NY Giants Knowledge Panel

SEO Research: What’s Interesting for 2020

Touching a Brain

A busy road grows no grass and since my head grows no hair then it should be busy. Heading into 2020, there’s loads to look into and I have already got loads on my thoughts. Of course, you may anticipate us to maintain up with Google’s core updates. Beyond that, nonetheless, and with the emergency of BERT, Natural Language Processing (NLP) has began to actually fascinate me. How good is Google at understanding sentiment inside a sentence? Where does it thrive when understanding language like a human would possibly? Where are its hangups? As Google tries tougher and tougher to imitate human understanding of language the solutions to those questions are going to develop into more and more essential for SEOs to know. I feel we’re simply beginning to incorporate Google’s linguistic tendencies into the SEO dialog which makes the realm ripe for brand new analysis and insights! 

Here’s to SEO analysis in 2020! 


About The Author

Mordy Oberstein

Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO neighborhood for Wix. Despite his quite a few and far-reaching duties, Mordy nonetheless considers himself an SEO educator at the beginning. That’s why you’ll discover him recurrently releasing all kinds of unique SEO analysis and evaluation!

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