On June 6, Google announced a “new change” that would limit a single domain from dominating organic search results. Known as the Domain Diversity Update, this change came around the same time as the June Core Algorithm Update, though Google has been clear that the two events are unrelated.
There has been much buzz around the potential impact of this change, but many webmasters and users may not be aware of how the Domain Diversity Update impacts the organic search experience. Here, we’ll answer 5 important questions about this change and provide next steps on how to keep your site performing strongly in its wake.
1. What Changes Did Google Make?
Google’s Domain Diversity Update was rolled out as a way to limit sites from appearing too many times for any given SERP (search engine results page). Following this change, Google will now seek to show no more than 2 results from the same domain per search query.
The update only applies to organic core results, not rich results, so you might still see one news source appearing multiple times in the “top stories” snippet that appears for a search like this:
Another important factor of this change is that Google is including subdomains as part of the top-level domain when it comes to their results cap. You might use subdomains to segment content on your site, such as:
No matter how distinct the content is on your subdomains, Google will view all of your pages as being part of one domain and will only show 2 URLs total for a single search query.
2. Why Did Google Make This Change?
The purpose of this update is straightforward – to provide more variety in search results rather than overwhelming the user with results from a single domain. As with every update, Google aims to improve the search experience and make it easier for users to find high-quality content that answers their query.
3. Will This Update Affect Every Search Query?
The short answer: no.
Google made the caveat that it will still show the same domain if the query specifically warrants it, so we would expect this update to apply primarily to non-branded searches rather than branded or navigational ones.
For example, searchers looking for “Macy’s shirts” will continue seeing SERPs like the one pictured below, since that person is clearly looking to buy or browse products from Macy’s.
However, the update may impact branded queries, particularly for searches where other sites still fulfill the user intent or where the user intent could be very broad.
For example, the search for “Lululemon leggings with pockets” shows 4 results from the Lululemon domain (still 2 more than Google’s specified limit) as well as reseller product pages and promotional stories.
We also expect this update will have an impact on local searches where Yelp and other big-name review or aggregate sites tend to dominate certain queries. There may be more opportunity for local businesses, magazines, or blogs to find room in Page 1 SERPs that more authoritative sites had previously owned.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that while Google asserts that this change has been fully implemented as of June 6, there will still be some searches that are exceptions to the new rules. For example, this search for “gyro recipes” still returns more results from AllRecipes.com than any other domain.
4. Will This Update Affect My Site’s Rankings or Traffic?
Google has indicated that this won’t impact sites’ rankings but may impact traffic if a site had multiple pages ranking for a single query prior to the update.
A Moz report released June 19 provides more context on the overall landscape impact of the Diversity Update. The report states that the update seems to have had the biggest effect on queries where a domain held 6 or more of the 10 organic results in a single SERP, but less of a noticeable impact on SERPs where one domain held 3 or 4 spots.
Looking deeper into potential impact, a study by SEMRush showed a lift in number of max-2-results-per-domain SERPs while the number of 3-result-domains dropped slightly:
Though it’s hard to identify whether or not the update will impact a site’s organic visibility, generally speaking, most sites shouldn’t see significant upheavals in their organic traffic or search visibility as a result of this update.
As Google indicated, if you were ranking for a term pre-June 6, you should still be ranking for it afterward – you just may hold fewer spots in the SERP.
5. What Should I Do Now?
If you’re concerned that your site was affected by this update, there are a few next steps you can take:
- Assess your organic traffic. Using Google Analytics or your tracking platform of choice, review your organic search performance, zooming in on the days surrounding the Diversity Update. If you notice dips in traffic around June 6, take a look at the landing pages that suffered and identify which keywords or queries might align with those pages.
- Double check your most important SERPs. If you know you were dominating on certain queries, review those SERPs yourself. If certain content no longer shows up, consider revisiting those pages and re-targeting them toward long-tail queries rather than broad terms that other pages on your site could rank for.
- Continue creating high-quality content. As always, Google’s recommendation following an update is to prioritize quality. Using Google Search Console or a specialized SEO tool, review keywords you’re not performing well for and find ways to improve or optimize your content. Consider the search results that are ranking highly to learn from your competitors, especially if new sites are showing up on Page 1.
In short, to see long-term SEO success despite Google’s ebbs and flows, keep an eye on your organic performance and focus on creating content that’s relevant and useful to your visitors.