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Mayday! Mayday! Google Changes Impact Long Tail Search




Google is always very busy making changes to its search ranking methodology and the mythical algorithm that everyone chases. I say mythical only because for years it has been treated as if it were something that could be hunted, captured, contained, analyzed and then completely understood. That’s the marketing and sales talk about this beast. Reality is much different.

Reality is so much different that people who know more than most, like former Googler Vanessa Fox, often tell folks to not get their knickers in a twist about every adjustment in the Google search ‘ecosystem’. Last year alone there were anywhere from 350-550 changes made so there is no way to A) know all of these B) Implement all of these and C) Not go crazy tracking all of these.

So when Fox penned an article over at SearchEngineLand telling us about what has been deemed the “Mayday” update it gets some attention. Why? Because this one may really impact just how SEO’s optimize for long tail queries from this point on.

……. sometimes a Google algorithm change is substantial enough that even those who don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the algorithms notice it. That seems to be the case with what those discussing it at Webmaster World have named “Mayday”. Last week at Google I/O, I was on a panel with Googler Matt Cutts who said, when asked during Q&A, ”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.”

Sites likely to be most effective are larger sites that have a significant number if interior pages that are under optimized either through content, links directly to the pages and a combination of various other factors. Many people have seen significant impact on rankings and, more importantly, traffic as a result of this change. Fox offers the following advice for those wondering how to address this situation.

What’s a site owner to do? It can be difficult to create compelling content and attract links to these types of pages. My best suggestion to those who have been hit by this is to isolate a set of queries for which the site now is getting less traffic and check out the search results to see what pages are ranking instead. What qualities do they have that make them seen as valuable? For instance, I have no way of knowing how amazon.com has faired during this update, but they’ve done a fairly good job of making individual item pages with duplicated content from manufacturer’s databases unique and compelling by the addition of content like of user reviews. They have set up a fairly robust internal linking (and anchor text) structure with things like recommended items and lists. And they attract external links with features such as the my favorites widget.

As with any major change that occurs to the ‘secret sauce’ of ranking with Google, it would be wise to get educated on just what impact has been seen as a result of these changes that are apparently here to stay. As with everything there are two sides to every coin and the flip side of this one should be exciting for smaller players looking for an edge. The long tail has always been a target of any good SEO campaign especially by the smaller players. Now there’s a chance to make even further inroads against the big boys. Study up!

Have you seen this change impact your site’s performance in Google? Let us know your experience.

  • http://www.bigpictureweb.com Josh Braaten

    I’m loving the new changes because I think my blog is one of those “higher quality sites” that’s surfacing in long tail queries. At least, I’ll take the 10% increase in search traffic I’ve seen this month as a signal that Google thinks my site is higher quality.

    Ultimately, I think this is a nod to those of us that have really tried to find a niche and develop great content around it.
    .-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..Speed Up Your Google Analytics Install on Squarespace =-.

  • http://www.nonprofitlist.org Anton

    The mayday update actually increased my traffic. I always put up good unique quality websites and the rest takes care of itself.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    The problem is if one of your sites did see a traffic drop it is almost impossible to research the sites that are now ranking better because for the most part site owners are still seeing their sites rank well in the SERPs.
    .-= Jaan Kanellis´s last blog ..SEOmoz Thoughts (and mine) on Link Valuation =-.

  • http://www.stellarpointgroup.com Go2Mach2

    Thanks Frank…

    I kept hearing more buzz over the last few days about this topic. Like any “Change” Google makes to their algorithms, it is going to take a little time to see the actual effects. Based on some experiences, the best way not to fall behind as a result of these changes is to pay even more attention to internal (anchor text ) linking strategies.

    But as a good friend often tells me, any effective SEO plan already pays a great deal of attention to this area! I guess we just keep working and adjust our strategies as needed.

    Thanks for the post…enjoy your weekend

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    I don’t think this update is anything to cry over for people who diversify their content. I haven’t seen anything that concerns me, for example, on my personal sites. Some of my Google traffic is down but I’ve never relied solely on Google for traffic. Overall my traffic is up. There may or may not be a correlation with the Google change.

  • http://www.awebguy.com Mark Aaron Murnahan

    I have to keep my hair cut very short so I don’t pull it out when I think of all the idiots who think tweaks will fix their ills, while valuable information is secondary. I guess they are just the kind who lack the creativity to produce something marketable … really marketable. Great content that people want is the same great content Google wants. Sure, there are deal breakers in the presentation like the person who called me yesterday and I found they had a robots.txt agent * disallow for their whole blog … yeah, that one hurts. It is not about trying to address each little Google change. The truth is that Google wants good information that people want to see. It is what makes their business model successful.

    I look at it like this: I wrote a little piece about h1 tags roughly eight years ago. It has been at the very top of Google searches for h1 tags on an old run-down site with no “SEO maintenance” and tables … yep, tables. It has been there ever since I wrote it. Maybe algorithm is not the only thing to it. ;-)

    .-= Mark Aaron Murnahan´s last blog ..Things You Cannot Sell Online =-.

  • http://www.horos.com.gr antonis vourtsis

    yep till google change to a new alogorithm if somehting goes wrong and return to along tail synonum again Google wants all for it is self…….. http://www.horos.com.gr χωρος κατασκευαστικη εταιρεια τεχνικη ευκαιρεια διαμερισματα σπιτια