Earlier this week, we looked at the US sites that made the biggest SEO gains in 2015, but now it’s time to find out who the losers were.
Again, a huge thank you to Juan González from Sistrix who spent his time evaluating 200 US domains to give us this exclusive research.
Here’s Juan’s insight for each of the bottom five:
Thefind also headlined our UK losers list. When we look at the rocky landscape of Thefind.com it becomes clear that the domain managed to rush headlong into numerous Google updates, over the years. Such an erratic visibility is a sign that the page did not show the necessary quality signals where Google’s algorithms are concerned, nor did it manage to live up to users’ expectations.
The abrupt end for Thefind.com in 2015 came at the hand of Facebook, who bought the company in a bid to incorporate it into Facebook’s advertising engine.
Looking at Cupertino.org we see an interesting spike in January 2015. The same spike can be found for other city websites, such as lakewood.org and austintexas.org.
I spent some time digging into this and found that between 12/22/2014 and 01/16/2015 all three domains were ranking for “department of community services“, “parks department“, “community parks“, “parks and recreation department“ and “city of parks and recreation“.
Parks and Recreation is also, of course, a television sitcom, which aired its finale in February 2014.
Looking at Google Trends, US users seem to be quite interested in “parks and recreation“ from December to June. But we also notice an unusual spike for the keyword “parks in recreation“ from the middle of December 2014 to January 2015. (The final season aired from January 13, 2015 to February 24, 2015.)
Maybe because the show was ending, its fans started to search for information about Parks and Recreation and Google overreacted with the QDF (‘Query Deserves Freshness’) for this and related keywords.
The domain Chow.com now redirects to Chowhound.com, the name of the former forum for the site.
While the redirects seem to be solid, it seems as though Google does not trust the user-generated content on the new domain as much as before, leaving an overall loss of visibility of nearly 50%.
This is a little sad as Chow.com actually managed to come out of Panda quite well and even managed to gain visibility thanks to the Phantom update, before the domain name change.
The case of ESPNs soccer page, espnfc.com, is quite interesting.
When we look at the visibility history for espnfc.com and espnfc.us, we see a rather typical up and down which often hints at duplicate content issues. On 08/24/2015 this all changes and the espnfc.us page comes out on top.
When we look at the sourcecode of both pages we notice a canonical combined with a hreflang attribute. While the canonical always points to the .com version of the page, the <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”http://www.espnfc.us/” /> tells Google to show the .us version in the Google.com SERPs.
This setup may come back to bite them later as it can confuse the Googlebot. As John Mueller from Google has noted:
“If the URLs are really fully equivalent, then using a rel=canonical like that is fine (eg if you have an informational page on a site, which doesn’t mention local currencies or local addresses). On the other hand, if the pages are not fully equivalent (eg different titles, currencies, addresses, etc), then I would not use a rel=canonical. The difference is very subtle and because of that, hard to implement at scale”.
While Businessweek did not make the top five in our UK losers list, it did get an honourable mention.
Businessweek was bought by Bloomberg back in 2009 but kept its own domain until last year, when it became part of bloomberg.com on http://www.bloomberg.com/businessweek.
When we compare the visibility for Businessweek.com with the /businessweek directory on Bloomberg.com, we find that the magazine did not pass it’s visibility on to the new directory.
The reasons here are, once again, soft-404 problems when redirecting each page to the new directory. When we look at the redirects from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/ through URI Valet, for example, we see the first 301 redirect to http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/technology/, next we get a 302 redirect from http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/technology/ to the start page http://www.bloomberg.com/, which constitutes the soft-404. That’s the problem.
Others interesting ‘losers’
Another interesting domain on the losing side is guitaretab.com. They lost nearly all their visibility in the week of 01/04/2016. This looks like a manual de-indexing penalty as the indexed pages during this week also went down to 0.
We could speculate that the copyright removals might have played their part.
Right now, the domain is only ranking for brand keywords and not much else.
It also seems that Microsoft is using the same SEOs for all of their domains, as many of their service-domains show up on our losers list: Windowsphone.com, Technet.com, Msdn.com and Bing.com