In a previous article, we shared the top 100 winning domains of 2019, but where there are winners, there have to be losers. Once again there are massive changes in the UK search rankings. Which domains lost search visibility during 2019 and, is there anything we can learn for 2020?
1. health24.com -99.75%
The domain health24.com ended up as the domain with the biggest visibility loss in 2019 after being hit by the three core updates in sequence. Medic, YMYL and E-A-T come to mind, but in this case, there could be a very simple explanation.
This Naspers, South Africa-owned website is now almost invisible in the Google UK Search results. It won’t help visitor numbers, but one has to ask whether those visitors wanted to be there anyway? In this case, localisation could play a role.
We can see that there’s no declaration of language via lang or hreflang HTML code. In this case, they have left Google to decide. Clearly the content is English, but should it be visible in all English-language countries?
It doesn’t take a human long to work out that the content is targeted at South Africans. There are mentions of the South African currency, and health articles that you won’t need in the UK. (Scorpion bite treatment, for example.) The content has none of the privacy hallmarks of the EU either. This site is currently not GDPR compliant.
Google appears to have decided where this content should not rank, at least, through three Core Updates in 2019. The site still ranks in South Africa.
2. loveknitting.com -99.58%
The websites at loveknitting.com and lovecrochet.com were re-branded last year under the lovecrafts.com domain and brand name. Loveknitting had grown smoothly over the years, without impact from any of Google’s Core Updates, to a Visibility Index of over 7 points. The domain move was spotted in August.
By analysing the back-link profile using the Broken Links tool we can see whether there’s still redirect work to do. It doesn’t take a few minutes to discover thousands of incoming links that end up with no content being shown. Take this one for example.
This URL has important links to it, including a UK national newspaper, but the content is forwarded, seemingly via a ‘wildcard’ redirect, to the new domain where the content can not be found. It’s also not available via search on the new site.
There are many many cases of content being lost, and that’s only via a quick incoming-link check. There’s work still to be done here in order to accelerate the discovery of the new URLs, assuming the content still exists.
3. songbpm.com – 86.78%
A long history of big changes, some of which may, or may not be related to Core Updates, makes it almost impossible to determine what might have happened in 2019.
The only thing that is clear is that songbpm.com lost a lost of song-related rankings during the time of the September 2019 rankings.
From the 9th September until the 13th October – the period around the September Core Update, songbpm.com lost 56% of it’s ranking keywords out of the top 100 SERP positions.
Did songbpm.com belong in the SERPs for those search terms? Or perhaps Google doesn’t like listing automatically-generated search engine results, which appears to be the case with some no-content URLs under songbpm.com/searches.
Scott Rank, PhD is a historian of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey and is chief editor of historyonthenet.com. The domain has seen some success over the years.
In 2019 the site dropped in March (close to the March Core Update) and again over a 2 week period in November. In the second drop, the site was removed from the SERPs of 45% of the previously ranking keywords. By looking at those keywords we can see whether the content is still there, or whether it was removed. All URLs checked were still available. One example is the URL ranking for “attack on perl harbour”.
The situation here is similar to songbpm.com where the ranking history of the domain is not stable. It means there’s less chances to correctly analyse the domain from afar.
There is, however, a point in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that might be relevant here. Google shows an “encyclopedic article” about the civil war as a good example. The article comes from Wikipedia and Google highlights the following about the article:
- A satisfying or comprehensive amount of high quality main content
- Positive reputation (website)
- High expertise, authority and trust for the article
The guidelines also highlight the need for “positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.” We note that historyonthenet.com does not want to reveal the specific authors of articles.
“Please note that website articles do not have individual authors”
Top 100 losers UK (mobile) 2019
Before you tale a look at this list, be aware that you’re going to see a huge percentage of, apparently, non-English domains being kicked out of UK search. This years IndexWatch list is exceptional in that regard and as a result, we’ve performed additional checks. A Brexit-related joke would fit in nicely here but, instead, we’ve analysed some of the domains and more information can be found below.
Non UK English sites
While it’s unlikely to play into the strategies of UK-focused SEOs, it’s interesting that non-UK English content sometimes appears, and sometimes disappears in the UK search results. This year there has been a mass expulsion.
One would need to ask the responsible SEOs whether SEO strategies are behind previous gains (and therefore, whether the losses are at all relevant to them) but for those that are competing against this non-UK content, its nice to know that many were removed during March 2019.
One example is the English-language Indian Times Now News outlet owned by the Times Group in India. It’s a site that appeared as a Winner in 2018. The site presents itself to Google with lang=en, but without country localisation coding. However, the content is clearly targeted at India. As a result of changes in March, timesnownews.com is now at record lows in UK search. In our data for India, the Visibility Index is high, at 33 points.
|Domain||Loss (%)||Month of main loss||Notes|
|myvmc,com||-96.57%||March 2019||Au medical content. Recently rebranded to healthengine.com.au|
|timesnownews.com||-94.83%||March 2019||News in English for India|
|gumtree.com.au||-93.77%||March 2019||Classifieds. English, for Australia|
|filmweb.pl||-93.45%||March 2019||Film information in Polish|
|linguee.fr||-89.14%||March 2019||English dictionary, for France|
|gumtree.co.za||-86.50%||March 2019||Classifieds. English, for South Africa|
|letras.mus.br||-85.51%||March 2019||Lyrics for Brazil|
|vagalume.com.br||-84.71%||March 2019||Music listings for Brazil|
|mojim.com||-82.86%||March 2019||Lyrics for users in Asia|
The list above shows more selected examples and in total, over 30% of the Top 100 list is related to English content targeted at non-UK countries.
Will it stay like this? No-one can predict that but we’ll keep it in mind at the next Core Update.
Top 10 losers UK (mobile) absolute 2019
Highly visible domains don’t need to shift by many percentage points in order to have a noticeable impact on the search marketplace by either removing or freeing-up space for others. The list below shows the Top 10 losers, in absolute terms, for 2019
Ebay are the biggest losing domain of the year with not only one, but two domains losing a total of 876 visibility points – around a half of all previous visibility. It’s also interesting to see gumtree.com, another big classifieds site, on the list.
Amazon is in the list and UK retailers will be happy to see that they’re not gaining any more shelf-space in Google Search.
Wikipedia continues a long decline. 490 Visibility Index points is not a big percentage change for them, but it represents a huge amount of presence in Google Search results.
We wish you every success in 2020. As we said last year, keep the quality in, and the tricks out! And once again, here the link to the top 100 SEO winners in the UK for 2019.