Google’s Impact on Small Sites: Unfair Advantage?

Analysis of Google’s Impact on Small Sites

In recent times, the criticism directed towards Google for allegedly harming small websites has become increasingly vocal. Instances like HouseFresh and Retro Dodo have drawn significant attention, presenting compelling arguments against the tech giant. The introduction of hardcore updates and the growing tension between SEO professionals, publishers, and Google have only fueled the controversy.

The most volatile market in the world does not lie within the realms of Brazil, Russia, or China. Surprisingly, it’s Google’s search engine domain that stands out. No other platform has undergone as many structural changes and updates. Over the past three years alone, Google has launched 8 Core updates, 19 major updates, and approximately 75-150 minor updates while asserting thousands of improvements annually.

Common discourse suggests that Google is crumbling under the weight of the rapidly commercializing web. Some argue that Google is deliberately cutting out intermediaries like affiliates and publishers, redirecting traffic directly to software vendors and e-commerce brands.

However, the critical question remains: do the statistics align with these claims? As the old adage goes, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

Examining Google’s Potential Biases Towards Large Websites

An in-depth analysis was conducted to determine whether Google exhibits favoritism towards larger websites, providing them with an unjust SEO advantage.

Summary: Google does indicate a tendency to propel large websites at a faster rate, although this growth likely stems from secondary factors rather than merely the volume of traffic.


  • I compiled a list of the top 1,000 sites that experienced the most significant gains and losses in SEO visibility over the past year, sourced from Sistrix. I prioritized relative changes over absolute figures to adjust for variations in site sizes. For the roster of winning sites, a minimum SEO visibility threshold of one was established to filter out irrelevant data.
  • Subsequently, I cross-referenced these websites with backlink and traffic data from Ahrefs to conduct correlations pertaining to factors like site traffic and backlink profile.


There exists a strong correlation between websites positioned in higher visibility percentiles and the growth in SEO visibility they’ve attained over the past year.

In contrast, websites that experienced a decline in visibility showcase no discernible relationship between the magnitude of their decline and SEO visibility. Therefore, it can be inferred that larger websites are more likely to achieve success in the realm of SEO.

Notwithstanding, it’s essential to recognize that newer websites still have the potential to thrive, albeit navigating a more challenging landscape than that of five or ten years ago.

One primary reason big websites tend to amass greater organic traffic is due to how Google assesses ranking signals. Larger sites often possess heightened authority, granting them the capacity to rank for a broader spectrum of search terms and bolster their visibility, provided they can evade scalability issues, maintain high-caliber content, and prioritize user satisfaction by resolving their queries.

Authority, as per our understanding, is an amalgamation of factors including backlinks, content quality, and brand influence.

Google seems cognizant of these dynamics and is taking proactive measures. The correlation between SEO visibility and the quantity of linking domains was notably robust, although it exhibited a decline from May 2023 (0.81) to May 2024 (0.62). Websites that encountered a drop in organic traffic displayed weaker correlations (0.39 in May 2023 and 0.41 in May 2024).

Despite websites that experienced a surge in organic visibility boasting a higher quantity of backlinks, the impact of this signal has notably diminished over the past year. While backlink volume remains a pivotal criterion, its influence is gradually waning. It’s imperative to distinguish between the volume and quality of backlinks, as they constitute distinct metrics.

The second rationale behind the widespread escalation of organic traffic among prominent websites can be attributed to Google’s Hidden Gem update, which imparts preferential treatment to online communities. This phenomenon is evidently reflected in the data.

At the zenith of the list featuring victorious websites, prominent online communities such as Reddit, Quora, Steam Community, Stack Exchange, and Ask Ubuntu dominate the landscape. Notably, a surge in growth was also observed within the realms of popular SaaS vendor communities like HubSpot, Shopify, and Zapier. Although certain online communities may lack the prominence of well-established entities, their substantial growth over the past year is unmistakable.

Conversely, the roster of losing websites predominantly comprises publishers and e-commerce entities. Alarmingly, a considerable number of sizable publishers witnessed a decline in organic traffic derived from conventional blue links, with figures mirroring setbacks witnessed by smaller publishers.

Noteworthy Examples:

Examples of substantial publishers encountering declining SEO visibility include:

  • (-62.3%).
  • (-58.6%).
  • (-40.3%).
  • (-40.1%).
  • (-32.8%).

Conversely, small-scale publishers that experienced setbacks encompass:

  • (-79%).
  • (-70.6%).
  • (-58.5%).
  • (-46.5%).
  • (-38.4%).

It’s crucial to acknowledge that publishers rely considerably on traffic emanating from platforms like Top Stories, Google News, and Google Discover, which aren’t reflected in the available data.

Noteworthy Parasite SEO targets like or encountered a notable loss in SEO traffic, alongside unlisted entities like or The extent to which Google exerts effort in cleansing its search engine result pages (SERPs) remains unclear.

Approximately two-thirds of entities featured on the triumphant list belong to sectors like SaaS, e-commerce, education, or online communities, displaying gains ranging between 63% and 83%. In stark contrast, over 50% of entities on the losing spectrum were affiliated with publishers or e-commerce, with visibility plunging between -45% and -53%.

A striking revelation: The landscape for success in e-commerce and publisher SEO has become increasingly arduous, considering nearly twice as many e-commerce entities and five times as many publishers witnessed a decline in visibility as opposed to making gains.

The five sites that experienced the most substantial loss in SEO visibility as of May 2023 are:

  • (-35.5%).
  • (-61.5%).
  • (-43.6%).
  • (-40.3%).
  • (-59.7%).

An observed pattern pertaining to country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) was not discernible. Notably, 75% of entities featured on the successful list encompassed a .com ccTLD. Of the remainder, 65 entities were .edu, 39 were .gov, and 94 were .org.


  • It’s essential to recognize that the outcomes of this analysis may be influenced by a multitude of variables such as SEO campaigns, technical hurdles, or domain migrations, which could impact the traffic trajectory of websites.
  • Additionally, the sample size of 2,000 sites employed in this analysis may pose limitations. While the analysis delves into the pivotal figures, it’s imperative to acknowledge the vast expanse of the web, which potentially accommodates millions of websites.

Unanswered Queries

There exists ample room for interpretation regarding the term “big” when applied to websites. Whether it encompasses a specific threshold of traffic, affiliation with a major corporation, or substantial revenue generation remains open for debate.

While this analysis primarily focuses on organic traffic, an intriguing avenue for exploration involves the examination of the SEO performance of industry behemoths. For instance, Glen Allsopp’s examination of the domination exerted by significant publishing entities within SERPs serves as a valuable reference point.

Key questions pertain to the instances when Google rewards large websites. Does it transpire during algorithmic updates, or is it a continuous process over time? Establishing clarity on this front could offer profound insights into Google’s operational framework.

In conclusion, the data analysis suggests that the factors contributing to the success of large websites often propel their ongoing growth. Rather than deliberate malice towards niche entities or small websites, it is likely that algorithmic nuances lead to differential outcomes.

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