New York Times Search Ranking Drop After Google BERT Update

Oct 30, 2019 • 8:05 am | comments (132) by twitter | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

The New York Times said it may have seen a "huge" impact from the Google BERT update and by impact it means a decline in search traffic from the search engine. Hannah Poferl, the Associate Masthead Editor for Audience at The New York Times told me so on Twitter.

She responded to a tweet of mine on why the BERT update may have felt small to so many publishers and tracking tools. She said "Feels huge to us at NYT. But it coincided with the move to mobile-1st indexing — so we're not sure what's causing changes" Here is the tweet:

So she is not clear yet on if this was related to the Google BERT update or mobile-first indexing change. Yes, the New York Times said the site was just moved over to Google's mobile-first indexing. Most of the time a move to mobile-first indexing does not negatively impact the site's ranking in Google, at least not in a "huge" and "negative" way.

Hannah said this was a negative impact:

She explained it was not just the main web results but also the mobile AMP carousels and other areas of search:

The interesting thing is that SEMRush does not show any decline over the past week, in fact, it shows an increase in search visibility:

click for full size

Like I said, these tools don't track the longer-tailed queries, like super long ones, so maybe that is why SEMRush is not seeing it like folks inside NY Times see it?

I asked Google's John Mueller about this and he said they move domains when Google thinks the sites are ready to be moved to mobile-first indexing, so he is implying it probably isn't related to mobile-first indexing:

It will be interesting to see what Google or NY Times find with this. I suspect this will travel high up at Google and someone will figure out what is up soon. Do any of you have theories?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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