Google announced on June 2, 2021, that it would be rolling out a broad core algorithm update in two phases: the first starting on June 2 and the second on an undisclosed date in July. This much-awaited announcement took place 6 months after the prior December 2020 Core Update, and is unique in the sense that Google stated it will launch 2 concurrent core updates within 2 months. The June 2021 Core Update is separate from the Page Experience Update; another algorithm update focused on Core Web Vitals and AMP that is slated to launch in June of 2021 as well. The Page Experience Update has yet to be formally launched, so it’s important to remember that new Core Web Vitals metrics do not play a (confirmed) role in the outcomes of the June 2021 Core Update.
Like all broad core updates of the past 2 years, the only context Google provided about the update was the Twitter thread below, plus a link to its article, “What Webmasters Should Know About Core Updates.” Google later confirmed the update officially finished rolling out on June 12.
Core updates provide an opportunity for website owners and digital marketers to see if their efforts to optimize and improve their websites align with the changes Google continuously makes to its algorithms. Often, when a website experiences a decline in traffic due to a Google core update, seeing an improvement in performance may not take place until the next core update rolls out (or the one after that!) And this usually only takes place after significant work has been done to improve the affected website.
Disclaimers About Core Updates
It’s important to remember that thousands of factors are at play in the changes we see to website rankings during a core update rollout, making it impossible to isolate exactly what happened or what specifically Google aimed to achieve.
Furthermore, the June 2021 Core Update will be followed by another core update in July, plus the Page Experience update will also be launched in the coming weeks. Therefore, the data displayed here may change drastically as a result of those updates. Google even confirmed that in some rare cases, sites may see a complete reversal in performance between the June and July core updates.
However, it can be illuminating to look at the performance of websites and categories at scale after a core update to see if any patterns exist among winning or losing websites.
Our analysis of winners and losers is done by collecting the Sistrix Visibility Index score of a given root domain between the dates of June 4, 2021 and June 14, 2021. This score is intended to reflect how well a domain ranks across Sistrix index of 1 million tracked keywords in the United States (google.com).
We then collect the category of each domain using Similarweb Categories. This allows us to see whether changes related to the algorithm update are affecting certain categories or niches more than others.
For this analysis, we collected the Visibility Index Scores of 1,900 domains in 31 categories. We also filtered the domains to any domain with a Visibility Index score of over .25 on June 14, as the domains below this amount have virtually no SEO visibility and the data is therefore not entirely reliable.
Top 50 Winning Domains
Below are the 50 domains that saw the greatest total increase in visibility (using the Sistrix Visibility Index score) between June 4 and June 14, 2021.
Below are the 50 domains that saw the greatest percentage increase in visibility (using the Sistrix Visibility Index score) between June 4 and June 14, 2021.
Top 50 Losing Domains
Below are the 50 domains that saw the greatest total decrease in visibility (using the Sistrix Visibility Index score) between June 4 and June 14, 2021.
Below are the 50 domains that saw the greatest percentage decrease in visibility (using the Sistrix Visibility Index score) between June 4 and June 14, 2021.
Full List of Analyzed Domains
Note: Sorting this table by any of the displayed columns only sorts the 25 URLs actively displayed, not the entire list of 1,900 domains. Use the search bar in the upper-right for more granular filtering.
Organic Visibility Impacts on the Category Level
There were some clear patterns with how this update affected websites in specific categories, and it was unique from core updates of recent months and years which tended to disproportionately impact “Your Money, Your Life” (YMYL) websites.
The chart below shows the average total visibility change seen by each category (as classified by Similarweb). This is intended to show how much a category has gained or lost visibility relative to all the other analyzed categories. This chart has been filtered to display the categories with the greatest positive or negative change.
Note: The category “Reference Materials” includes sites that define words, parts of speech, etc. such as dictionary, thesaurus, and wiki sites. It also includes Q&A sites such as Quora and Urban Dictionary, as well as “public directory” sites like Yelp and other maps sites.
Below is the average percentage visibility change by category, which shows how much a category’s visibility has changed relative to its category’s own performance before the update rolled out. The chart has been filtered to display the categories with the greatest positive or negative change.
Trends + Analysis by Category
Dictionaries + Reference Sites
One of the most salient patterns from this update so far is the drastic increase in visibility seen by dictionary sites, including Wikipedia, which has seen declines with prior recent core updates.
The total change in visibility among prominent dictionary sites are shown below. This indicates that Google appears to be determining that many more queries should result in dictionaries to be shown in prominent positions.
Below is an example of what these changes look like on the query-level for the query “correctional.” The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was replaced by dictionary.com for the #1 ranking position, perhaps because Google determined that defining “correctional” is the main intent of most searchers above looking up that correctional facility.
It is also worth noting that Google edited its Search Quality Guidelines in October of 2020 and one of the biggest changes included new language about dictionary sites and when a query should generate a dictionary result.
According to the updated Search Quality Guidelines:
“When assigning Needs Met ratings for dictionary and encyclopedia results, careful attention must be paid to the user intent. Like all results, the helpfulness of dictionary and encyclopedia results depend on the query and user intent. Dictionary and encyclopedia results may be topically relevant for many searches, but often these results are not helpful for common words that most people in your rating locale already understand. Reserve high Needs Met ratings for dictionary and encyclopedia results when the user intent for the query is likely ‘what is it’ or ‘what does it mean’ and the result is helpful for users seeking that type of information.”Google Search Quality Guidelines
The bulk of the decline in overall visibility to the travel category stems from declines seen by TripAdvisor, which lost a whopping 75.59 visibility points since the update was launched.
Looking closely at keyword movement, it appears that Tripadvisor saw some declines for keywords where an official travel destination website took its place, such as the below example for the query “whitewater rafting” where Tripadvisor was pushed from position 3 to page 2.
Below are the biggest % winners and losers in the “Travel” category.
Business + Finance Websites
This update appears to have had a significant impact on many business and finance websites. Below are the greatest winners in Finance + Business, sorted by % change.
The significant increase for the domain debt.org is especially interesting, given the massive declines in visibility it saw in late 2020. This is one of several sites seeing such a pattern, such as parenting.com, livestrong.com, and others.
Several popular sites that rely on User-Generated Content (UGC) saw significant declines as a result of this update, such as Quora, Tripadvisor, Reddit, Yelp, and more.
Product Review + Affiliate Websites
This update appears to have heavily impacted sites in the product review and affiliate space, which is especially interesting given that Google just recently launched a Product Review update which also heavily impacted these sites. This impact was even more significant among review sites in the technology and consumer electronics space.
Below are sites that saw the greatest percentage increases in the consumer electronics space.
The movement of some sites was so closely tied to that seen during the Product Review update that SEO consultant, Glenn Gabe, reached out to Danny Sullivan from Google to see whether the core update was related to the Product Review update in any way. Danny responded with the below:
Health, Wellness + Parenting Websites
There was significant movement among some sites in the health, wellness, and parenting categories (which fall into the YMYL – your money, your life category). In some cases, the June 2021 Core Update resulted in massive reversals in visibility trends seen by prior core updates and during the past several months. For example, What To Expect and Very Well Fit saw an enormous drops in visibility, while Livestrong, Fatherly, and Parenting all saw increases.
News, Media & Publisher Sites
News sites continued to see volatility with this update, much like many of the recent core updates. Below are some publisher and news sites that saw major swings in visibility.
The publisher “Parade” is seeing big increases as a result of the core update, but these extreme increases actually started a few weeks earlier, with Google’s Product Review update (letter H in the below graph). The site has gained top rankings for a wide variety of keywords related to “jokes,” “pick up lines,” “fun facts,” and “quotes,” beating out some lesser-known sites.
On the flipside, Smashing Magazine, a website for web designers, is the greatest overall percentage loser.
The decline seems extreme, but is actually due to very high-volume queries moving down by just a few ranking positions, including its (ambiguous) brand name “Smashing,” which now generates dictionary results, a YouTube video, and a Knowledge Panel about the Smashing Pumpkins.
In aggregate, these small ranking declines add up to big visibility declines. In some cases, the site was beat out by slightly newer or more comprehensive articles on these topics.
The Smashing Magazine situation is a good example of how a site doesn’t have to do anything wrong to be affected by a core update; it just means Google determined another site or page provides a better result.
This June 2021 core update is still rolling out and this data is still early. Beyond that, Google will be launching another core update and its much-awaited Page Experience Update in the next couple of months as well, so it’s entirely possible that this performance data will continue to change over the next few months. We will continue to update the data in this article and future articles.
There appears to be a major trend taking place that is affecting product review sites in particular, which may or may not somehow be tied in with Google’s announcement of the Shopping Graph at the 2021 Google I/O.
There also appear to be many examples of ranking fluctuations where Google simply determined a different type of result is a better user experience than what previously ranked, such as a dictionary definition or a YouTube video. It’s hard to do much in response to Google’s new understanding of user intent except for making sure your site contains pages for all possible user intents.