Google’s diversity update… or not – June 2019

Jon Earnshaw, 28 Jun 2019

On June 6th 2019 Google announced that it was going to make the SERPs a fairer place. A place of diversity giving customers more choice by returning more individual domains whilst moving away from clustering. (Presumably this will mean that Google products are included in this diversity drive too right Google?)

To be fair – they’ve been trying to do this for over 10 years. Some of you may remember Matt Cutts (see below) announcing just such an update designed to improve diversity back then. That update backfired horribly and resulted in the worst SERP clustering disaster ever with, in some instances only seven or eight domains occupying the entire top 100 results.

Matt Cutts from Google EMD 2013

What Google said about the latest diversity update?

Google Said:

“A new change now launching in Google Search is designed to provide more site diversity in our results. This site diversity change means that you usually won’t see more than two listings from the same site in our top results. However, we may still show more than two in cases where our systems determine it’s especially relevant to do so for a particular search….”

Whilst Google reserves the right to show more than one result for some searches, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land commented that this would most likely be reserved for brand specific searches.

The ‘Diversity’ update and Google broad core

While the diversity update is apparently not related to the most recent June ‘Broad core’ update – the timing is interesting and the fallout from the ‘Core’ update remains almost unprecedented.

Let’s take a quick look at the impact of the June core update first. Here’s a Visibility Index based on 1000 search terms Index showing the impact on 12 separate domains.

Google core update - Sites drop in Visibility Index - Pi Datametrics

We’ve covered the full impact of the recent core updates in a separate post, as the impact has been crippling for some. With the confusion between these two early June updates out of the way let’s focus on the latter and ask the question…

Has the diversity update actually increased diversity and reduced clustering?

Let’s take a look…

In this first example below, we conducted a search for a ‘Tower fan’.

Pi Datametrics SERP Matrix: Page one before and after the ‘Diversity update’

Chart 1
Pi feature tool: SERP Matrix
Search term: Tower fan
Domain tracked: Entire landscape

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 12.26.19

What am I seeing here?

Before we go any further, let me just explain what you’re looking at in the chart above.

  • Each column = The top 20 positions on page one of Google
  • Daily data
  • A range of ‘Classic links’ (in grey) and SERP features
  • See below for a list of all the possible SERP features that can appear on page one

SERP Feature Key - Pi Datametrics

Looking at the results in Pi’s SERP Matrix chart above, the first thing you’ll notice is a feature rich SERP littered with ‘People also ask’, ‘Images’, ‘Video carousels’, ‘Video links’ and more.

The question is – who is owning each feature or link and, most critically, is the SERP more diverse after June 6th?

Let’s filter by domain, highlighting the company that appears most often before and after the diversity update – Amazon.

SERP feature and position zero analysis

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Amazon still owns multiple results after the ‘Diversity update’

Chart 2
Pi feature tool: SERP Matrix
Search term: Tower fan
Domain tracked: Amazon

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 12.26.42

We have honed in on Amazon’s performance. Three days after the update (highlighted), Amazon.co.uk makes three appearances in the form of two classic links and one feature image.

There does appear to be slightly less clustering (apart from the three same domain results on June 9th) but we’re still seeing Amazon appearing three times on most days. It seems to be getting around the update by getting the .com as well as the .co.uk indexed in the UK SERP. 

Let’s switch the filter to look at another well positioned domain (albeit pushed down by Amazon’s clustering and the lack of diversity above it) – Argos.co.uk

Argos still owns multiple results after the ‘Diversity update’

Chart 3
Pi feature tool: SERP Matrix
Search term: Tower fan
Domain tracked: Argos

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 12.27.00

Paradoxically, the day of the ‘Diversity update’ (highlighted) has spawned less diversity, with the presence of a second Argos page. 

Is my search experience enhanced by the inclusion of two results from a single domain? Actually, no, because one of them (the higher one) doesn’t even showcase ‘Tower fan’.

So in this instance, with up to 50% of page 1 occupied by two domains (Amazon and Argos), it’s quite clear that this is another example of a diversity update that hasn’t quite done what it was supposed to do… yet!

Conclusion

I’m not convinced yet at all. But let’s watch this space… Though i may do another study very soon on Google’s own product diversity…..

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