Medic Update diagnosis and prognosis: Pro Web Consulting research

We were all still on the beach this summer when Google decided to “hit” the world with a new update, the one that was later christened “Medic Update“.

Here at Pro Web Consulting, instead of formulating imaginative hypotheses and flying into a panic under the beach umbrella, we decided to tackle it in our usual fashion: examining the data.

Today, after some months of study, comparisons and analysis, we’d like to share with you what has emerged from our research. The information is only quantitative, for now.

Data collection: what we looked at

The update started on the first day of August, and continued in a serie of “aftershocks” until the end of November. The oscillations throughout this whole period have been very strong but the direction has always been quite linear.

In a nutshell, it changes the way in which Google interprets search intent and user queries, as well as how it evaluates websites based on authority, performance, and content

What we know from Google is this:

  • This is not a “Medic” update (but it would be a mere coincidence);
  • The way Google interprets the search intent has changed;

Why is it important?

Google has changed (again) the way in which it:

interprets user queries;

evaluate websites, especially as regards:

  • speed;
  • authoritativeness;
  • content quality;

But which of these factors is the true focus of this update?

First observations: declines and peaks of traffic, what is the common thread?

Within a couple of weeks, some site that are very authoritative sites in their field suffered fullscale collapses in terms of visibility and organic traffic. These included important news sites in the pharma / medicine / wellness field, but not only, also in other sectors such as food and news. But if, therefore, these are extremely authoritative and well-known sites in their sector … then perhaps it is not a matter of trust.

Not only did they suffer huge traffic reductions but other sites experienced strong surges in traffic following the August update. Why?

Indeed, while in the early days after the update portals of the calibre of misya.info, medicitalia.it and youreporter.it had drops of -60% and -76%, (although some recovered in November), there are other sites that benefited greatly from the update. The latter include, for example, aranzulla.it, with its + 26% traffic and + 2M sessions, or Bimbisaniebelli.it, with its impressive 600% increase in traffic in just 3 weeks.

What is the lowest common denominator? We started a detailed analysis to identify the variable behind these SERP movements.

Update analysis: the process

Pro Web Consulting examined a large amount of data: the goal was to identify the update’s most significant parameters.

We started with a large amount of data:

300 keywords relating to the pharmaceutical sector: generic, long-tail, informational and commercial;

  • we evaluated the first 50 results for each keyword;
  • we associated 96 technical features for each domain and relative URL ranked;
  • we correlated 28,800 unique characteristics for the 4,878 domains analyzed.

Clustering the elements in question, we grouped them in three macro-groups:

Keyword performance, i.e. websites that gained / lost in terms of the number of keywords on which they were positioned in July compared to September;

Traffic performance, i.e. websites that experienced increased / reduced traffic in July compared to September;

Traffic performance relative to keywords, i.e. websites that gained in terms of number of keywords and lost traffic, and websites that lost in terms of number of keywords and increased traffic.

Medic update: early results from the analysis, and current situation

Performance, trust, content and ability to keep URLs indexed over a long period:  these seem to be the most relevant factors that emerged from our research.

In a nutshell, those that lost traffic following the Medic Update have parameters that indicate poor performance and high use of JavaScript and HTTP resources. Performance parameters apart, CitationFlow is one of the trust components that, if low, negatively influences organic post-update traffic.

Paraphrasing, Google seems to reward sites that, over time, manage to preserve a high number of indexed, good quality URLs (that attract traffic or are ranked on Google) while maintaining a high level of trust from an offsite perspective.

What, then, is the fulcrum around which good and bad traffic and site visibility revolve, with regard to this update? To download our white paper, do revisit the website or register here.

Pasquale Gangemi Head of Operations at Pro Web Consulting