Insights / SEO

PUBLISHED: Jun 18, 2024 7 min read

SEO Visibility Shifts from Review Sites to eCommerce & User-Generated Content Sites in 2024

Lily Ray

Lily Ray

Vice President, SEO Strategy & Research

Silvia Gituto

SEO Data Analyst & Content Writer

Several recent Google algorithm updates and other adjustments to Google’s algorithms have led to substantially different search results in mid-2024 compared to the prior year. Google launched a number of significant, confirmed updates – most notably, the September 2023 Helpful Content Update and March 2024 Core Update – which reduced “unhelpful” content in the search results by 45%, while simultaneously elevating user-generated content sites like Reddit, Quora, and others.

Google also launched seven different “Product Reviews” updates – later renamed just to “Reviews” updates, throughout 2021 and 2022. These updates created more strict criteria for product review sites to demonstrate to users (and Google) that their reviews were based in real-life experience and robust testing, as opposed to generic reviews that simply restated what was already available on the product manufacturer’s site. Google’s Reviews system has since been incorporated into its core ranking systems, so this could explain why core updates could have disproportionate impacts on review sites.

Furthermore, during Google core updates, the results may demonstrate a change in user intent and/or relevancy. This may be because Google’s algorithms determine that searchers are looking for different results than what might have previously been displayed for the same query.

For example, for the keyword ‘table,’ Google’s algorithms could shift from determining the user intended to buy a table, to wanting information about how to choose the best table. This would be considered a shift from commercial to informational intent.

One of the major changes to search that took place over the past nine or so months is that Google aimed to significantly reduce spam and unhelpful content, while elevating new types of content Google deems to be helpful, such as forums and user-generated content.

According to Google, the March 2024 Core & Spam Updates involved “refining some of our core ranking systems to help us better understand if webpages are unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people. This could include sites created primarily to match very specific search queries.”

We set out to explore whether the reduction in unhelpful content resulted in any particular website categories or types of sites being disproportionately affected compared to other types of sites. We conducted research on the outcome of the March 2024 Core Update, plus other updates in late 2023 through mid-2024, and observed that there was a shift from affiliate and product review websites to both eCommerce and user-generated content (UGC) sites for various keywords in top ranking positions in Search results.

We noticed that there appear to be fewer opportunities for informational, product review-oriented sites to appear prominently for many transactional queries in 2024 compared to 2023. These top-ranking positions are now frequently occupied by eCommerce stores—especially Amazon—and forum and user-generated content, such as Reddit, often involving users on those sites discussing the product in our search.

Methodology, color coding, & disclaimers

Using the SEO tool Sistrix, we analyzed dozens of different keywords where product review/affiliate sites were ranking in top positions in Google’s search results in May of 2023, and compared the top-ranking pages for those keywords in May of 2024. To conduct this exercise, we compared the dates May 15th, 2023 to May 27th, 2024 for all keywords in this article. Below are two major ways the top-ranking positions in the search results shifted for the keywords we monitored, year-over-year:

  • Review sites shifted to eCommerce sites
  • Review sites shifted to user-generated content (UGC) or social media websites

We used color coding to visually demonstrate the types of pages and sites displayed:

  • Green = eCommerce website
  • Red = affiliate/product review website, or informational site containing affiliate links
  • Orange = user-generated content and/or social media site

We analyzed approximately 40 keywords for the purpose of this article, and included examples for seven queries, shown below.

Shift in rankings from review/affiliate sites to eCommerce websites

Our research revealed a significant shift in top-ranking pages for many commercial queries, where product review & affiliate sites ranked in the top 10 positions last year, but were largely replaced by eCommerce stores in May 2024. 

Below are examples of keywords that saw a shift from affiliate/review websites to eCommerce sites year-over-year.

Bird feeders

For the keyword “bird feeders,” product review site ranked in position 1, and other product review/affiliate sites ranked in positions 5, 6, 7, and 9 in May of 2023. These sites were entirely replaced by eCommerce sites in May 2024. As the image below shows, all the top-ranking websites in the top 10 positions of Google are now eCommerce stores.


“Laptops” is another keyword that experienced a major shift in search results year-over-year. As seen in the image below, all affiliate and review websites ranking in positions 4,7,9, and 10 in May 2023 were entirely replaced by eCommerce websites in May 2024. The top 10 results now consist exclusively of eCommerce websites, with some sites even listed twice.

Towel warmer

We also saw a shift in the results for the keyword “‘towel warmer.” In May 2023, affiliate websites held positions 2, 5, 6, and 9 in the search results. However, by May 2024, these affiliate websites were entirely replaced by eCommerce stores, as shown in the image below. Amazon and Walmart each show multiple listings.

Leather cleaner

Product review websites Architectural Digest, Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) and Forbes, ranked 1, 4, and 6, respectively for the keyword “leather cleaner” in May of 2023. A year later, these sites were replaced by eCommerce websites, which held 9 out of 10 of the top positions, plus Reddit in the 10th position.

Christmas ball ornaments

The keyword ‘Christmas ball ornaments,’ which mostly served eCommerce sites in the top 10 results in May 2024, with two product review sites in the top 4 positions, saw a shift, with all top 10 results now held by eCommerce websites. Amazon now appears 3 times in the top 10 for this keyword.

Travel hanging toiletry bags

The keyword “travel hanging toiletry bags” previously served 4 product review sites in the top 10 positions in May of 2023, with two such sites earning positions 2 and 3. In 2024, all of the top results are now eCommerce sites, with the exception of YouTube in position 3.

Shift in rankings from review/affiliate websites to User-Generated Content

After analyzing some keywords, we noticed a shift in rankings from review sites to user-generated Content or social media websites, in addition to eCommerce results. Where there were minimal to zero UGC sites ranking prominently in May 2023, we noticed that Reddit, Quora and YouTube are now ranking in top positions for a number of the keywords we analyzed. One such example is “toys for 2 year old boys,” shown below.

Toys for 2-year-old boys

What this means for product review sites

While Google didn’t state that product review content represents the type of content Google considers to be “unhelpful,” these types of pages do appear to be disproportionately and negatively impacted by recent updates for many of the queries we analyzed.

Google seems to heavily prioritize eCommerce for many broad, commercial queries that used to return more informational results last year.

With lower organic visibility, product review and affiliate sites may need to consider ways to diversify their traffic, such as digital media, PR, more social media posts and engagement, video content, (including YouTube Shorts & TikTok), podcasts, or engaging with audiences in relevant forums.

As Google is constantly evolving and listening to feedback from its users, it’s possible that these results could shift again with future updates.

Interested in more SEO content? Explore the impact of Google’s latest AI innovations with Google I/O 2024: AI Overviews & the Impact on SEO or, let’s talk about how to achieve more for your marketing—and your business.