joined:Sept 10, 2018
Here's the info on the algorithm update I mentioned that would have hit a lot of entertainment/quiz/tools sites, directory and information lookup sites, travel sites, and sites targeting local.
In mid December 2017 there was an update Barry Schwartz (HI THERE BARRY!) called the Maccabees update.
The analysis suggested it targeted "low quality sites with lots of keyword permutations" i.e. doorway pages, and "ad heavy sites." It could have been several different updates.
Anyone with a site with keyword permutations got hit. It hit the biggest site in my niche really hard (they are not at all ad heavy). They do have an excessive amount of long tail keyword permutations. I didn't notice anything at the time, but I was in the middle of a huge viral traffic spike. I only started to feel a drop off on the 3rd/4th January 2018. I don't have sensible search console data from that time because my site was distributed over subdomains, so I can't really see what was going on.
I'm not in a content niche, I’m in an entertainment tool niche. The name of each tool is literally "genre of tool" + "tool type name." It's legitimate to have a site like this with multiple keyword permutations of this nature since each page serves a very different purpose. It's also how people search for pages in the niche! What am I supposed to do, talk in euphemisms and hope Google guesses what my pages are about?
I think this is the reason a low quality EMD was able to take over my niche and dominate all the super synonyms searches. Everyone else in the niche is under an algorithmic penalty! I think the EMD avoided the penalty because they only have 20 pages (the 20 highest volume pages - which means they've taken a lot of my traffic).
I think this algorithm update involved a cranking up of the keyword cannibalisation penalty (no, I don't believe Google gets confused, I believe it's an algorithmic penalty that happens at the re-sorting stage of serps ranking). Have you noticed how some authority/quality sites can get away with having several spots at the top of the serps, and everyone else gets their related pages hidden and sometimes their primary pages are pulled down by secondary pages? That's exactly what's happening in my niche.
It makes it really difficult for a site with the typical profile of my niche to rank on the short tail. For example, in an unrelated niche – if you search for "baby name meanings" you will get a completely different set of sites to if you search for "specific name" + "baby name meaning."
Since I'm a medium sized site it seems I can't rank for the short tail and I don't have the hundreds/thousands of pages I need to get enough traffic from the long tail. I have no idea what the best strategy is to fix this.