Google updates their search algorithms all the time. But there tend to be two major releases per year. Last month was the second major update of 2019. Google actually did this algorithm update in two parts. The first was the "June Core Update" on or about the first week of June. The second part came a few days later and is being called the "Diversity Update." The dates are approximate because Google rolls these things out in phases across their vast server farms and it takes some time. That means the changes can take effect for different people at different times, so it can be hard to pinpoint the exact date and time they pulled the trigger.
The Google Diversity Update Is Not What It Sounds Like
The June Core Update appears to be rather routine maintenance stuff as far as most of us can tell. The Diversity Update may be having more of an impact. Importantly, it's not what it sounds like.
The current usage of the word “diversity” in media is charged with a lot of social and political meaning. The Google Diversity Update is completely different. It’s intended to keep a single domain from dominating page one of any search query. Performing a search in Google after this update means that now, if a domain has dominating content, Google will find the top two pages of that dominating content and list those on page one so that the other eight organic results will be from other domains with relevant content. This is what Google means by “diversity” in this case – search results will have a greater diversity of results from various sources.
Does Google's Diversity Update Work?
For our weekly newsletter, I search for things like eCommerce, Marketing, Retail, SEO, and Shopify all the time – so I am REALLY familiar with these search results every single week. When searching for “Shopify,” it was normal for Shopify.com domain results to take up nearly all of page one results, including ad space. So, a Google search for “Shopify” might have eight or nine results on the Shopify.com domain, two ads from Shopify itself, and one or two other domains with relevant content. That was about as near a monopoly on search results as one could achieve.
I just did a few test searches and Shopify’s dominant SEO position on that search term has been decimated by the Diversity Update. My search this morning yielded exactly the following on page one:
- 4 ads – only one pointing to the Shopify.com domain (plus one for Shopify subsidiary Oberlo.com)
- 3 featured news stories from various sources
- Google’s “People also ask” box with four suggest search entries
- 9 organic search results – as promised, only two on the Shopify.com domain
- 1 bottom of the page ad for a third-party site
Other, more complex searches still show domination of the first page – sometimes stretching a few pages deep. I think this is likely due to overwhelming relevance and user intent scores – things we know have had increased influence in previous Google algorithm updates over the last few years. Or maybe the update starts at the top of the search food-chain and then works its way down? We never get enough information about the insides of Google’s black box to know for sure. Lots of folks – me included – are poking around, testing, and reading other’s reports and anecdotes. But no one that I know of has any empirical data or testing. It’s just too soon.
One prominent industry resource – The Moz – constructed a rudimentary test using real data and came up with similar results to what I found anecdotally – that there has been some improvement in domain diversity in primary search results, but that some searches are still dominated due to overwhelming relevance and intent scores. For example, if you search for “Shopify Help” Google naturally shows you a lot of online help documentation for Shopify – which makes a lot of sense.
If you are a super-nerd with a tech-data fetish like I am you’ll find a link to that Moz article below.
Google SEO Opportunity or Fizzle-Spit?
This actually opens up a lot of opportunity for folks. Under normal informational searches, it’s going to be a bit harder for one or two players to own that section of Google Search real estate. Hopefully, no one will be able to acquire a monopoly on page one results anymore. And solid SEO practitioners are going to get some wiggle room to elbow their way into the top few pages. And … I think that’s a good thing.
Thanks for reading.
Links and Additional Resources on Google’s June Core Update and Diversity Update
The Moz article I referenced:
A third-party summary of the Google June Core Update:
A third-party summary of the Google Diversity Update:
Another relevant third-party summary of the Google Diversity Update from a different perspective: