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Which websites made the most significant gains in Google search in 2019? Which domains find themselves amongst the year’s biggest losers? Searchmetrics has crunched the numbers and can reveal the top winners and losers of the past 12 months, based on performance in the organic search results on Google.com. In particular, two of Google’s Core Updates had a huge impact on the search results: the March 2019 Core Update and the September 2019 Core Update. Looking at websites by topic, many health and dictionary websites experienced big ups and downs during 2019. Find out more by reading the full analysis here. By the way: You can stay up-to-date with all relevant news about SEO and Content Marketing by reading our monthly newsletter – sign up now for free:

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Study data

The analysis of winners and losers is based on how domains’ SEO Visibility developed throughout 2019, looking at the week-on-week changes for all websites in our US Google index. The lists are sorted by absolute increase or decrease in SEO Visibility over the course of the year. We have excluded websites offering adult content or unofficial streaming websites, as well as domain migrations.

Top 100 Winners

The list of the biggest winners of 2019 contains a large number of online publishers who made big gains in their SEO Visibility in 2019. If we look a little closer, we see that whilst there are some general-interest publishers amongst the winners, there are also a striking number of publishers that focus on specific topics like film, tech, cars or celebrity news.

Rank Domain SEO Visibility Increase (absolute) SEO Visibility Increase in %
1 youtube.com 9,572,541 22%
2 dictionary.com 1,210,530 62%
3 biography.com 1,130,416 217%
4 britannica.com 1,118,971 33%
5 merriam-webster.com 862,687 18%
6 rottentomatoes.com 657,954 42%
7 medicalnewstoday.com 600,432 71%
8 spotify.com 566,324 67%
9 healthline.com 529,799 29%
10 cnn.com 508,091 25%
11 wired.com 502,363 121%
12 nytimes.com 476,617 16%
13 npr.org 475,355 58%
14 latimes.com 458,793 147%
15 investopedia.com 454,776 68%
16 drugs.com 454,539 228%
17 medicinenet.com 441,213 112%
18 linkedin.com 427,809 18%
19 goodhousekeeping.com 393,810 92%
20 businessinsider.com 388,098 54%
21 vocabulary.com 387,174 40%
22 bestbuy.com 375,324 37%
23 poki.com 315,694 117%
24 theguardian.com 302,579 15%
25 apnews.com 298,119 292%
26 wsj.com 286,853 57%
27 cheatsheet.com 279,025 550%
28 usnews.com 271,754 19%
29 delish.com 270,960 87%
30 bloomberg.com 270,391 41%
31 harvard.edu 243,920 93%
32 techcrunch.com 242,798 97%
33 crunchbase.com 240,161 38%
34 emedicinehealth.com 239,270 340%
35 independent.co.uk 233,703 50%
36 couponcabin.com 232,294 85%
37 macmillandictionary.com 231,830 42%
38 yourdictionary.com 230,994 38%
39 pinterest.com 213,248 15%
40 cars.com 211,066 69%
41 definitions.net 210,669 205%
42 nerdwallet.com 195,901 43%
43 sciencedirect.com 194,828 59%
44 bleacherreport.com 182,360 45%
45 stanford.edu 181,790 100%
46 techradar.com 178,496 48%
47 nih.gov 177,966 12%
48 pcmag.com 166,456 49%
49 theverge.com 161,804 30%
50 buzzfeednews.com 159,598 new
51 lonelyplanet.com 159,441 48%
52 medlineplus.gov 157,157 17%
53 travelocity.com 152,999 188%
54 newsweek.com 152,777 135%
55 niche.com 151,166 27%
56 vox.com 149,741 73%
57 soundcloud.com 145,762 42%
58 cbsnews.com 139,229 30%
59 prnewswire.com 138,596 103%
60 cdc.gov 133,764 26%
61 mtv.com 130,424 59%
62 hulu.com 130,409 34%
63 bestplaces.net 129,820 219%
64 gamestop.com 128,578 41%
65 countryliving.com 128,458 58%
66 hopkinsmedicine.org 128,435 114%
67 fastcompany.com 127,356 143%
68 arkadium.com 125,322 62%
69 nordstromrack.com 121,338 58%
70 collider.com 119,860 131%
71 cnet.com 119,029 10%
72 steampowered.com 116,875 22%
73 medscape.com 116,805 38%
74 buzzfeed.com 116,406 82%
75 livescience.com 115,110 26%
76 bankrate.com 114,526 45%
77 whattoexpect.com 112,340 93%
78 thebalance.com 110,678 42%
79 oprahmag.com 110,365 new
80 nypost.com 110,362 28%
81 rogerebert.com 107,838 48%
82 parade.com 106,904 236%
83 savings.com 105,798 414%
84 ldoceonline.com 103,409 46%
85 engadget.com 103,259 52%
86 computerhope.com 101,000 108%
87 sitejabber.com 100,404 200%
88 bedbathandbeyond.com 100,285 46%
89 metro.co.uk 98,486 293%
90 inc.com 98,329 46%
91 bbb.org 97,211 62%
92 10best.com 93,820 302%
93 ew.com 91,864 26%
94 clevelandclinic.org 91,687 29%
95 sallysbakingaddiction.com 91,560 236%
96 kizi.com 91,513 403%
97 looper.com 90,524 425%
98 commonsensemedia.org 88,852 21%
99 pixabay.com 88,294 100%
100 refinery29.com 87,779 46%

Selected losers

The following table shows a selection of loser domains that suffered a significant decline in their organic visibility during 2019. Like the list of winners, the loser domains are sorted by absolute change in SEO Visibility. Please note, we have only included domains here that lost at least 10% of their SEO Visibility over the course of 2019. Please also note that inclusion in this list does not necessarily mean that these websites have suffered an equivalent loss in traffic or turnover – this is just an indicator of how much their presence in the unpaid search results on Google.com has declined.

Domain SEO Visibility Decrease (absolute) SEO Visibility Decrease in %
imdb.com -2,353,155 -24%
urbandictionary.com -1,328,577 -35%
apple.com -1,226,061 -25%
indeed.com -1,155,147 -53%
softonic.com -866,848 -61%
verywellhealth.com -831,871 -86%
glassdoor.com -721,384 -52%
quora.com -559,138 -60%
everydayhealth.com -512,931 -72%
thesaurus.com -389,020 -35%
cnbc.com -370,689 -29%
craigslist.org -358,753 -18%
khanacademy.org -339,679 -26%
thefreedictionary.com -315,184 -36%
metacritic.com -310,509 -61%
vanityfair.com -310,426 -52%
msnbc.com -306,283 -69%
weather.com -295,823 -31%
discogs.com -292,391 -43%
washingtonpost.com -291,409 -19%
cargurus.com -280,332 -61%
agame.com -252,418 -45%
psychologytoday.com -251,710 -49%
seekingalpha.com -246,043 -73%
theatlantic.com -238,430 -25%
vimeo.com -233,386 -48%
today.com -232,739 -36%
city-data.com -232,619 -55%
allrecipes.com -226,664 -16%
bbc.com -218,840 -23%
eonline.com -205,434 -38%
toptenreviews.com -189,317 -77%
zillow.com -188,175 -40%
foxsports.com -184,801 -40%
dmv.org -182,404 -89%
tvtropes.org -174,567 -36%
foodnetwork.com -172,936 -16%

Google search developments in 2019: The most important updates

The winners and losers of 2019 are largely websites that felt the impact, be it negative or positive, of Google Updates. For this reason, our analysis looks at how these updates affected the performance of different websites.

Google Core Updates shake up the search results in 2019

In 2019, the story of the year’s winners and losers closely matches the story of the year’s Google Updates. Rarely have the Google Updates so clearly shaped the fate of the year’s biggest winners and losers. The largest contributors to ranking ups and downs were four Core Updates. The heaviest impact on winners and losers came from the March 2019 Core Update, followed by the September 2019 Core Update. By comparison, the June and November Core Updates created smaller waves in the search results.

The BERT Update, although it garnered considerable attention in the SEO community, had comparatively little impact on the SEO Visibility of domains – largely because this update primarily improved Google’s ability to understand long-tail and voice search queries.

Update Name
Date
Features of the Google Update
Google Statement
Google January 2020 Core Update January 13th 2020

The first official Core Update of 2020 was rolled out on 13th January 2020. There is not yet any information regarding its impact. With this update, Google continues its communication strategy of (pre-)announcing Core Updates on Twitter.

Google’s announcement via Twitter
Google Update November 2019 November 7th 2019

Webmasters in the USA who run affiliate sites have observed massive changes in the travel, food and health sectors. Google has not commented on the changes, but SEO experts have described the update as “aggressive”.

» Google Update November 2019

Post-update confirmation via Twitter
Google BERT Update 24th October 2019

It’s the biggest change to Google’s algorithm for five years, affecting one in ten search queries. With the Google BERT Update, Google aims to improve the interpretation of complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results.

» Google BERT Update

Google’s explanation in a Blogpost
Google September 2019 Core Update 24th September 2019

The September 2019 Core Update was rolled-out globally, starting on the 24th of September. This Google Update focused on improvements in the content quality in the SERPs. For the second time, Google pre-announced a core algorithm update in advance.

» Google September 2019 Core Update

Google announcement on Twitter
Google June 2019 Core Update 3rd June 2019 Google set a new precedent with its “June 2019 Core Update” by, for the first time in the history of Google Updates, announcing the roll-out of a major core algorithm change in advance. This update was the second major update of 2019 altering the core algorithm, and was rolled out on the 3rd of June, as preannounced.» Google June 2019 Core Update Google announcement on Twitter
Google March 2019 Core Update 12th March 2019 In this global core algorithm update, there were ranking shifts for keywords related to health and other sensitive topics. The algorithm was also adjusted to favor trust and expertise, as well as user signals.» Google March 2019 Core Update Confirmation on Twitter

Ongoing upheaval for health and dictionary websites

Google still seems to be unsure how to best evaluate websites in some industries. This is particularly true for websites that provide content dealing with YMYL subjects. YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) is an acronym used to describe sensitive subjects that could have a big impact on a user’s finances of physical health. Google seems to pay particular attention to rankings for keywords in these areas, like search queries related to health problems, as acting based on incorrect information could potentially have disastrous consequences for the user.

Accordingly, websites covering health topics have seen considerable fluctuation in their rankings for some time now, and this continued throughout 2019. Two of 2018’s big newcomers, verywellhealth.com and everydayhealth.com, are found amongst the websites who suffered the biggest losses in 2019, with both domains being particularly hurt by the March 2019 Core Update.

2019 was something of a rollercoaster for emedicinehealth.com: After the March Update brought a slight uptick, it saw huge gains following the June Core Update, only to start declining again from September. healthline.com is another website that has had a turbulent 12 months: it lost out in March, but was one of the beneficiaries of the June Core Update:

 

When one website drops, you can expect another to take its place. Some of these sites’ competitors in the health space were huge winners following the March Core Update. Here we see big jumps in March 2019 for medicalnewstoday.com and medicinenet.com.

 

Dictionaries and encyclopedias are another website category where numerous domains have seen dramatic increases and decreases in their SEO Visibility in recent years. For example, dictionary.com was one of the websites that dropped the furthest in 2018, but it has bounced back in 2019.

 

Other dictionary websites in the winner list include britannica.com, merriam-webster.com and vocabulary.com, whilst urbandictionary.com, thesaurus.com and thefreedictionary.com were on the sticky end of 2019’s Google Updates.

 

 

Losers hit by March and September Core Update double whammy

Looking through the list of losers, we see a recurring trend: Websites that lost SEO Visibility after Google’s March 2019 Core Update weren’t given long to regroup before being knocked down again by the September 2019 Core Update. This pattern can be observed for numerous websites that are amongst the biggest losers of 2019 – and from a range of industries, including the film platform imdb.com, urbandictionary.com, the job sites indeed.com and glassdoor.com, and the health site verywellhealth.com.

E-A-T losers regain some lost weight

In another reversal of previous misfortunes, a number of domains who were hardest hit by the E-A-T Updates of 2018 fared much better in 2019, with several making this year’s list of top winners. Examples include medicinenet.com and newsweek.com.

How was your 2019 in Google search? How were your websites affected by the Google Core Updates? Was 2019 a boom year or more of a bust? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below!

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