How Overstock Won Google's June 2019 Core Update
A setback is a setup for a comeback. For tech-driven online retailer Overstock, that setback took place in early 2011 when Google penalized them for engaging in linking practices that violated the search engine’s guidelines.
The Wall Street Journal uncovered that year that Overstock was boosting their rankings by “encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site.” Backlinks from university and government domains are difficult to acquire – and this is precisely why they carry high value in Google’s search ranking algorithm.
Google’s June 2019 Core Update
The SEO team at REQ has spent considerable time analyzing Google’s recent June Core Update. This was a broad update to Google’s ranking algorithm that generally rewarded websites with strong brand awareness and user experience, as measured by load speed and overall ad experience. Load times should be fast and any ads on a website shouldn’t detract from overall user experience and satisfaction.
We believe that the E-A-T principle (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust) is crucial for websites to exhibit – and it is almost certainly a ranking factor that’s detailed in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines.
While Daily Mail, a website that has issues with E-A-T and user experience, suffered dramatic traffic losses following June’s update, Overstock proved to be one of the winners of the update. This is where Overstock’s comeback story begins.
From May to July, Overstock.com has seen an increase in keyword rankings in Google’s top 100 search results – from about 3.6 million to 5 million. This would mean a significant increase in corresponding organic search traffic to the site.
How Overstock Pulled off the Comeback
Over the past year, Overstock focused on the basics of SEO to improve their performance in organic search: technical SEO, user experience, and content marketing. They addressed many technical crawl issues plaguing the site. On the UX side, Overstock focused their efforts on improving site architecture, overall usability, and site speed, a confirmed Google ranking factor. As a result, they were able to successfully present more personalized images to users.
To address content strategy, Overstock spent considerable time refreshing older pieces and articles throughout the site. This included consolidating old, duplicative pages and refreshing outdated content pieces.
Reaping the SEO Rewards
Overstock has cleaned up its act since 2011 – and Google rewarded them mightily in its organic search results. Google also recently rolled out its, which aimed to reduce the frequency in which a single domain owns search results. According to Overstock, this update benefited them as well because they did not have many duplicative listings in Google search.
According to Overstock’s digital team, they’ve seen a 51% increase in organic traffic year-to-date and a 97% increase year-over-year. On July 15th, Overstock’s CEO Patrick M. Byrne highlighted the tremendous importance and value of SEO in his letter to shareholders:
“Additionally, in June our SEO rankings on Google took another big step in recovery, and some of this improvement was taken out of the hide of Wayfair (which means the point where their two lines will cross just got moved farther out).”
Interestingly, you can see a significant rise in Overstock’s share price right as their rankings in Google’s search results improved.
This further reaffirms the power and value of SEO, particularly to ecommerce sites that live and die by Google’s rankings.
What It Means for You
Has your website experienced significant declines in organic search traffic following Google’s June 2019 Core Update? If so, your website may have significant technical and user experience issues and your website may be lacking in authoritative content – or have content that’s simply outdated and unhelpful to users today.
REQ can help start your comeback story. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.