IndexWatch: The UK SEO Winners of 2019

Steve Paine
Steve Paine
9. January 2020
Steve Paine
Steve Paine
Steve 'Chippy' Paine is the UK country manager for SISTRIX. "I've been working with the Internet for over 30 years. From copper, to Chrome."

The Top 100 winning domains for 2019 show a wide range of established brands gaining search visibility through SEO actions. The majority of winning domains are based around general information rather than products but there are some stand-out examples to take note of.

To create this list we’ve taken the mobile visibility index and looked at the big Visibility Index gains, in terms of percentage, during 2019. We’ve removed all domains that started with a visibility of less than 5. As in 2018, there were no ‘questionable’ websites in the list.

1. kerrang.com +364%

The apostrophe’d magazine brand will be recognised by many rock fans of the 80s and 90s and growth in this domain proves that pre-web brands can be successful in digital form. The company that bought the magazine and digital rights in 2018 committed to working with all online platforms and the strategy applied to the website seems to have been working.

kerrang.com visibility graph

The rankings increase is mainly because of the long-form /features/ directory, which was introduced after the new owner took control. To-date there are 1625 ranking URLs in this directory providing over 13 points of visibility. 25% of all ranking keyword positions are on page 1 of the SERP which indicates a successful strategy.

kerrang.com visibility graph

With a domain Visibility Index of 27, kerrang.com represents a large presence in Google UK search, but it will be important for parent company Wasted Talent to keep any eye on the competition. There are obvious competitors, such as Loudersound, NME and Rolling Stone, but many of the competing domains focus on reference and news information. Consider the word ‘prodigy’, for example. A common English word, the name of a band and a computer game. This ambiguity results in a complex set of competitors from some very big and powerful brands, including Spotify who are also covered later in this article. The Visibility Index figures for the competing domains can be seen on the right hand side of this table.

kerrang.com competitors

2. metro.co.uk +346%

A winner in 2017, a loser in 2018 and a winner again in 2019. The domain metro.co.uk, the online destination for the free Metro newspaper in the UK outgrew all previous peaks in 2019. It adds to interesting movements from other news properties belonging to the same parent company. DMGT’s Mail Online and recently acquired inews.co.uk both grew in 2019 to make the group the 3rd most visible news organisation on Google UK search.

metro.co.uk visibility graph since 2015

The domain lost many rankings over a period of time after the ‘Medic 2’ update (2018) but recovery began, returning many of the previously-lost ranking keywords, after the March 2019 update, through the June 2019 core update and further on to a peak in November 2019. 

metro.co.uk represents the growth that many news domains have had in UK search this year. wsj.com, inews.co.uk, thesun.co.uk, thetimes.co.uk and nytimes.com are all in the Top 100 list below.

3. huffpost.com +318%

This ‘winner’ is the result of a bounce-back from a low-point in Dec 2018 and the story behind it is worth looking at.

Huffpost content is spread over three domains (and four hostnames) in UK search results and when those domains are combined, as in the graphic below, it’s clear to see why that low happened in late 2018. The www.huffingtonpost.com domain ‘flipped’ into the UK search results.

huffpost.com mobile visibility / SEO graph

When we look at the bigger picture it doesn’t take a expert eye to see that not only is there work to do to consolidate domains, but total visibility has been dropping since 2018. While the domain is a winner, the overall picture shows a different story.

4. loudersound.com +262%

Did you expect to see two rock music publications in the Top 4? Loudersound might not be a brand you recognise but inside this domain you’ll find Classic Rock magazine, Hammer magazine, Prog and Blues.

loudersound visibility graphic

Loundersound have taken a different approach to Kerrang! but they have been careful to brand each article according to its respective parent. Blues articles don’t get the same graphical header as classic rock articles, for example.

Again, at core of the visibility growth is a /features/ directory.

loudersound website directory structure

You’ll also see an amp directory ranking well in the graph above. It holds news items which gives a clue as to how page-speed and advertising is being managed across different types of content. Interestingly, the same approach is being used within kerrang.com.

Other stories from the Top 100

By categorising the top 100 winning domains of 2019 we can see what percentage are monetized by advertising, and which rely on a product sale for revenue. Nearly 80% of all the winning domains in this list rely mainly on advertising for revenue, and nearly all of those are informational websites.

One third of the websites in the winners list deal with general knowledge.

The one noteable e-commerce winner is Alibaba. The alibaba.com and aliexpress.com sites, both in the top-100, offer direct-sales from China and the combined visibility would almost bring it into the Top 100 list of most visible domains in the UK. However, at just under 60 points, it’s a long, long way away from a combined amazon.com and amazon.co.uk visibility of over 3000 points.

Finally, it’s worth taking a look at Purina, a petfood brand of Nestle that has built up significant visibility by offering useful content for the pet-owning community.

Purina brand website growth

While some might label pet health information as a potential ‘Your Money Your Life’ topic, and therefore a risky area, purina.co.uk is currently a shining example of success where consumer brands and SEO is concerned. An article on dog poop is currently the most visible in the /dog directory, and, within the content, there isn’t a single mention of a Purina product. Search for it after you’ve finished your coffee.

The biggest algorithm changes of 2019

Google made more than 3500 algorithm changes in 2018 and has continued to make many changes in 2019. Many changes were extremely small though so here’s the list of significant changes and announcements that may have had a direct impact on website visibility in 2019

  • March: Core Update (18.03.2019)
  • March: Google confirms that the rel-prev and rel-next Tags have not been relevant for some time and that they don’t need to be used in the future.
  • April: Google problem with the indexing of content.
  • May: Google’s indexing problem solved
  • June: Core Update (05.06.2019)
  • June: Update relating to result diversity
  • September: Core Update (26.09.2019)
  • September: Changes in the way star-ratings are shown and checks for sites that generate their own star-ratings.
  • September: The old Webmaster tools site is closed with most features moving to the new Search Console. New report features are available. 
  • September: The new rel=“sponsored“ and rel=“ugc“ tags are introduced.
  • October: BERT is officially introduced (for English-language countries)
  • December: BERT is extended to 70 additional languages.

Top 100 SEO Winners 2019

Winning domains 2019, by percent, in the mobile SISTRIX Visibility Index
#DomainChange
1kerrang.comkerrang.com+363,66%
2metro.co.ukmetro.co.uk+345,95%
3huffpost.comhuffpost.com+317,69%
4loudersound.comloudersound.com+262,46%
5tandfonline.comtandfonline.com+255,66%
6boxofficemojo.comboxofficemojo.com+237,72%
7eventbrite.comeventbrite.com+232,91%
8bleacherreport.combleacherreport.com+223,28%
9helpguide.orghelpguide.org+220,20%
10whattoexpect.comwhattoexpect.com+210,93%
11biography.combiography.com+208,66%
12definitions.netdefinitions.net+203,58%
13udiscovermusic.comudiscovermusic.com+203,24%
14jstor.orgjstor.org+190,30%
15delish.comdelish.com+181,91%
16newscientist.comnewscientist.com+181,11%
17goodhousekeeping.comgoodhousekeeping.com+177,79%
18ldoceonline.comldoceonline.com+173,50%
19rac.co.ukrac.co.uk+170,23%
20pinterest.co.ukpinterest.co.uk+169,89%
21hopkinsmedicine.orghopkinsmedicine.org+161,36%
22nationalgeographic.orgnationalgeographic.org+159,64%
23npr.orgnpr.org+157,33%
24t3.comt3.com+157,19%
25carandclassic.co.ukcarandclassic.co.uk+155,04%
26goodtoknow.co.ukgoodtoknow.co.uk+153,84%
27medicalnewstoday.commedicalnewstoday.com+151,23%
28harvard.eduharvard.edu+150,61%
29aliexpress.comaliexpress.com+148,03%
30stanford.edustanford.edu+146,74%
31redbubble.comredbubble.com+144,47%
32slate.comslate.com+142,50%
33wsj.comwsj.com+141,43%
34springer.comspringer.com+141,18%
35gamesradar.comgamesradar.com+139,38%
36geeksforgeeks.orggeeksforgeeks.org+137,04%
37drugs.comdrugs.com+136,32%
38alibaba.comalibaba.com+135,40%
39time.comtime.com+133,03%
40inews.co.ukinews.co.uk+129,95%
41qz.comqz.com+124,17%
42thesun.co.ukthesun.co.uk+120,41%
43newsnow.co.uknewsnow.co.uk+120,26%
44matalan.co.ukmatalan.co.uk+120,13%
45theculturetrip.comtheculturetrip.com+119,64%
46poki.compoki.com+119,57%
47techcrunch.comtechcrunch.com+116,93%
48rateyourmusic.comrateyourmusic.com+115,95%
49thetimes.co.ukthetimes.co.uk+112,51%
50spotify.comspotify.com+112,21%
51deezer.comdeezer.com+109,04%
52wiley.comwiley.com+108,72%
53sciencedirect.comsciencedirect.com+107,22%
54jobsite.co.ukjobsite.co.uk+107,12%
55medicinenet.commedicinenet.com+105,57%
56liveabout.comliveabout.com+103,13%
57sciencemag.orgsciencemag.org+100,43%
58womansday.comwomansday.com+98,84%
59ryman.co.ukryman.co.uk+98,67%
60sagepub.comsagepub.com+98,42%
61engadget.comengadget.com+98,23%
62newyorker.comnewyorker.com+97,55%
63greatist.comgreatist.com+95,15%
64who.intwho.int+94,81%
65digitalcameraworld.comdigitalcameraworld.com+94,36%
66musicradar.commusicradar.com+94,19%
67techspot.comtechspot.com+93,18%
68mtv.commtv.com+92,38%
69vox.comvox.com+92,14%
70lyrics.comlyrics.com+91,10%
71hm.comhm.com+88,21%
72onthemarket.comonthemarket.com+88,07%
73purina.co.ukpurina.co.uk+87,99%
74nisbets.co.uknisbets.co.uk+87,21%
75theverge.comtheverge.com+86,29%
76lumenlearning.comlumenlearning.com+85,04%
77countryliving.comcountryliving.com+83,79%
78historyextra.comhistoryextra.com+83,60%
79soundcloud.comsoundcloud.com+83,12%
80macmillandictionary.commacmillandictionary.com+81,29%
81housebeautiful.comhousebeautiful.com+80,67%
82popularmechanics.compopularmechanics.com+80,02%
83onlinecarparts.co.ukonlinecarparts.co.uk+79,33%
84pcgamer.compcgamer.com+78,12%
85foodnetwork.comfoodnetwork.com+77,74%
86apa.orgapa.org+77,70%
87archive.orgarchive.org+77,60%
88ancient.euancient.eu+76,78%
89msdmanuals.commsdmanuals.com+76,70%
90hubspot.comhubspot.com+76,70%
91bloomberg.combloomberg.com+76,09%
92schuh.co.ukschuh.co.uk+74,01%
93vetstreet.comvetstreet.com+73,58%
94primelocation.comprimelocation.com+73,16%
95rationalwiki.orgrationalwiki.org+72,27%
96flickr.comflickr.com+71,42%
97nytimes.comnytimes.com+69,88%
98cv-library.co.ukcv-library.co.uk+69,49%
99tasteofhome.comtasteofhome.com+69,20%
100refinery29.comrefinery29.com+62,90%

Also available: The list of losing domains in 2019

Absolute winners: Top 10

For the sake of completeness, and a good reference point for growing domains, is the list of absolute winners who, while the percentage gain wasn’t big, grew a large amount of search visibility during 2019.

Four of the Top 10 are dictionaries, two are medical sites and one is for science information. Twitter is relatively ‘flat’ in terms of percentage change and Fandom growth is built on redirected Wikia content.

Spotify is the stand-alone domain among the top 10 as the only domain that relates directly to a product that can be bought. Our number #1 and #4 winners, above, would be wise to keep an eye on spotify.com content strategy.

Congratulations to the owners of the winning domains and all that have worked on them. Feel free to comment with thoughts, ideas and feedback below.

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Comments
Avatar Edward   
9. January 2020, 17:59

Will you do one of these for the US Media industry as well?

Steve Paine Steve Paine   
9. January 2020, 18:54

Hi Edward. We don’t currently analyse the US data for a report but I am looking at ways to get some basic data out there for you soon. Steve

Avatar Andy Davis   
10. January 2020, 09:50

Hi Steve,

Will you be looking at SME’s?

Thanks.
Andy

Steve Paine Steve Paine   
10. January 2020, 13:45

Hi Andy. Here, I’ve looked at growth from domains that already had good visibility already. In the next report I will be talking about the ‘losers’ and in a following report I will try (it’s not easy though) to find successful newcomers. SMEs will be among these domains for sure but i’m not going to be taking a sector-by-sector approach. However, 6 million SMEs are extremely important to me and the content strategy here is to work for these types of people. Not everyone has a dedicated in-house SEO team and one of our Toolbox strengths is easy access to info that website owners can use to help increase visibility.

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