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The winners and losers in search from 2017

by on 27th January 2018

Online encyclopedias and dictionaries have emerged as the big winners in search in 2017, according to the annual ‘winners and losers’ report by Searchmetrics.

The report relies on Searchmetric’s ‘SEO Visibility’ metric. This metric isn’t an indicator of total traffic but rather the total visibility of a domain – across an undefined number of ranking keywords – in search.

Some of the biggest winners in the ‘encyclopaedias and dictionaries’ categories include (total increase of 43%), (total increase of 37%) and (total increase of 77%).

The report states that overall visibility for domains within the ‘dictionaries and encyclopedia’ category increased by 9% YoY.

It attributes this success partly to the inconclusive  ‘dictionary update’ of June 2017; while this update remains unconfirmed by Google, a report from Search Engine Roundtable suggests significant fluctuation in visibility from the 25th June (but inconclusive patterns).

The Searchmetrics report determines that some of the biggest increases for dictionary and encyclopedia domains emerged around ‘generic’ or ‘short-tail’ terms; this is perhaps an indication that Google is pre-empting user intent for such queries.

The biggest losers:

The metric also factors in historical visibility and shows which brands have suffered the biggest losses in visibility in 2017.

While the ‘publishers’ category accounted for a 57% increase in visibility, it also accounted for a 44% decline. Perhaps most interesting of all are the losses experienced by social media sites like Reddit and Pinterest – formerly big winners YoY, Pinterest’s visibility declined by 23% and Reddit’s by 54%.

Is this a factor of concern for such sites? Arguably, yes. However, Reddit’s brand awareness is of such prominence that, according to, more than 50% of its traffic – 1.6 billion visits per month – is direct (browser type-in or clicking on a bookmark).

The rise of mobile:

Some brands like have lost heavily on desktop visibility but have lost even more visibility on mobile.

Searchmetrics reports that desktop visibility broadly mirrored mobile visibility at the beginning of the year, but the trajectory shifted as the year progressed. The example cited is that of’s mobile visibility being 41% below its desktop visibility (despite being a responsive website).

This parallels a relentless stream of communications from Google in reference to Accelerated Mobile Pages, its mobile-first-index and generally improving the overall experience for mobile users. We expect these developments will continue unabated throughout 2018.

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