Recently in May, Google’s talking head Matt Cutts came out and publicly announced that a recent algorithm shift had taken place within the search giant’s organic index. More substantial than recent updates and index changes, the “MayDay” update, as coined by web forums, has drastically impacted the distribution of long tail search.
In reading message boards and blog comments on popular ecommerce marketing communities, many site owners are reporting as much as a 25% drop in long tail traffic. For those who may not be familiar with the “long tail” concept as it relates to SEO and organic search placements, these are the phrases that are searched for very infrequently but typically make up the largest proportion of search traffic for eCommerce businesses.
Most likely this change is going to impact small to medium size retailers. These businesses who may not have a trusted backlink profile, as well as are lacking substantial age related to their domain, could likely see the brunt of this change as their rankings may slip across the 3-6 word queries that make up the majority of their organic traffic.
When asked about the change at a conference in France, Matt Cutts responded “this is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”
The question yet to be answered is the definition of higher quality sites and what parameters within ranking algorithms have changed to consider a site “high quality” outside of age, link profile, content depth, and total pages.
If you are seeing an impact to your organic traffic, first thing to do is to conduct some issue diagnosis. Check your analytics and look to see the total number of organic keywords searched before and after the reduction. Assess the ratio of total keywords searched to your total organic traffic. If that metric is drastically lowered, you probably have been negatively impacted by this update.
“This is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.” – Matt Cuts
A place to start trying to rectify the situation is to pass more pagerank to your product page level of your taxonomy. A tactic to try and help this would be to interlink to popular product pages through both new content publishing (within a community, blog, or learning center) and within strategic link positioning at category and sub-category pages. By linking more to your product level, you will pass incremental pagerank to these pages and give them a boost.
It’s counter-productive to get consumed with following Google algorithm changes as they make more than a change a day. But when large sweeping changes like this one come to light and are announced by the search giant, it is important to conduct the proper analysis and execution to fix any existing problem.
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