Google’s officially announced this update on Danny Sullivan’s SearchLiasion Twitter account, saying it aims to increase website diversity in search results so that not all results will originate from the same sites. More specifically, each domain will be limited to a maximum of two results on the 1st SERP.
It is interesting to note that even before this update, the number of “same site pages” in search results for a specific keyword was always limited and over the years there were quite a few limit changes. However, this seems to be the first time Google has initiated an announcement regarding this issue.
After the initial announcement, there were also some tweets to answer the questions:
- Subdomains will usually be linked to the primary domain and will be included in the limit.
- There is no connection between this update and the June 2019 core update.
- The change itself began two days before the announcement, but its effect was felt only on the day of the announcement.
- This change only affects organic results and not rich results such as local results or images (sponsored results will never show two ads from the same domain anyhow).
- This is basically a technical update and not a content update designed to identify duplicate content.
What was the true magnitude of the change?
In fact, changes were far less dramatic than it sounds, perhaps because it was an update of an older part of the algorithm rather than a whole new element.
Searchmetrics tested about 1,000 keywords before and after the change. For this analysis they deliberately chose a keyword set focusing on informational and transactional search terms rather than “direct searches” (when the user already knows what site he would likely find).
Numerically, these are their main conclusions:
- The percentage of searches returning more than three pages from the same domain (in the top ten results) is 0% compared to 1.8% before the change.
- Three pages from same domain only appear for 3.5% of searches, compared to to 6.7% before the change.
- The percentage of searches for which two pages from the same domain are displayed slightly increased, from 43.6% before the change to 44.2% after.
In the bottom line, after the change about 52.3% of searches return 10 unique domains in the top ten results, compared to 47.9% before the change.
Also, the update seemed to have more impact on transactional search terms and less impact on informational search. In fact, when searching for certain information, Google still gives a lot of credit to content relevance despite it’s intent to limit the number of pages from same domain.
In addition, there are also exceptional cases where even a non-branded search will return many results from the same domain because Google refers to it as a “branded search”. For example, if you search for gif images of “memes” such as “too much information” (TMI), you will find almost all of the 1st SERP controlled by the giphy.com site.
In the end, Searchmetrics concludes that the update mainly helped niche sites as they are now getting more visibility compared to large sites (for example, Amazon). Also, because rich results have not been affected by this change, sites appearing in such results also have higher visibility.
This change might cause more sites to turn to sponsored promotion, but this is only speculation.