Social platforms saw search visibility gains while publishers faltered in 2016

Social platforms saw gains in search visibility in 2016, according to Searchmetrics.

Content from social platforms like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook saw some of the biggest gains in US search visibility in 2016, while publications such as TheAtlantic.com and NewYorker.com, as well as dictionary and encyclopedia sites, were among the biggest losers.

That’s according to SEO and content marketing platform Searchmetrics and its third annual Winners and Losers report.

The data is based on an analysis of the change in search performance for each website during 2016 in which search performance is measured by the platform’s SEO Visibility score. Searchmetrics said it calculates this score by monitoring the organic search results of millions of keywords. In turn, SEO Visibility is based on data like the number of times a domain appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs) across the keyword set, its prominence within those SERPs and the competitiveness of the keyword.

Winners

“Large portals” like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and – interestingly – Amazon continue to be big winners in search by offering new and differentiated content, which Searchmetrics said are key themes for Google and other search engines as they increase their use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand search intent and present the most relevant content in search results.

“Differentiated content in this context means that these sites offer a wide range of different content that is relevant to countless search queries,” Searchmetrics said. “The crucial thing is that this content is not broad and vague – but highly specific content, which is often exactly what searchers are looking for.”

In a blog post, Searchmetrics CTO Marcus Tober said while many publishers and shopping sites saw big gains in visibility, it was Pinterest that was among the biggest winners. That’s in part because Pinterest is using deep learning, which is a precursor to AI, to generate more relevant results that evolve based on user behavior.

“Like Apple, Google (and even Searchmetrics), Pinterest’s application of deep-learning techniques is a key step in helping software understand the ultimate intent of a user, thereby generating more loyalty and stickiness online,” Tober wrote.

In addition to the aforementioned sites, Google, YouTube, MedlinePlus, Reddit, Lifewire and LinkedIn round out Searchmetrics’ Top 10 Winners of 2016.

“Sites that get quicker at loading new, engaging content that seeks to understand the user’s search intent are poised for even greater gains in 2017,” Tober added.

Losers

Per Searchmetrics, the most common category among the top losers was publisher websites. Searchmetrics attributed this decrease to Google’s core update in early 2016, which it said improved how user intent is gauged and how content relevance is evaluated.

“In its wake, many publishers were already amongst the losers, as older posts and articles about brands experienced drops in ranking,” Searchmetrics said. “High-quality relevant content, which deals with topics holistically, were the winners. “

The declining publisher sites were often general news or information sites, whereas winners were generally publishers offering more specific special interest content.

Tober noted that it is not just the sheer volume of content that yields a good ranking, but whether the content is deemed relevant and useful to the user.

In addition, encyclopedias, dictionaries, translation sites and lyrics domains were among the big losers. These declines were likely to have been impacted by both Google’s Phantom IV algorithm update, which was designed to reduce the visibility of low-quality and duplicate content in search results, as well as the increased implementation of “direct answers,” a Google widget appearing above organic search results in which Google tries to answer the searcher’s question or query, Searchmetrics said.

However, Tober noted while many lyrics pages lost visibility, some music portals like Spotify and Deezer saw significant improvements.

Searchmetrics’ biggest losers of organic search visibility in 2016 include: Wikipedia, IMBD, The Atlantic, About.com, Softonic, NIH.gov, The Free Dictionary, Yelp, Urban Dictionary and Wikia.

However, Tober noted this does not necessarily mean these pages have experienced losses in traffic or turnover -- it is rather an indicator of the domain’s presence in non-paid Google search results.

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