Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Google May Day Update increases long tail traffic

Over the Bank Holiday we are sure that the majority of you were out in the garden; clearing out the wardrobe; or planning your Euro-Vision party: Rocktime’s Head of Search was busy finding out about what has been named the Google’s ‘May Day Update’. She shares with us her insights below:

May Day Update Undercover Reporting

There were several blog posts & forum chats to sift through which stated that the update had dramatically increased or decreased traffic to sites, so this change was one worth investigating. After sifting through the techie rumours, I identified that the update really is pretty straightforward and impacts “the long tail traffic”, which are generally from longer tail queries that fewer people search for individually. No drama. We have been focused on the long tail for some time now.

The new algorithm update gives continued emphasis on page quality, to give smaller sites more of a chance in ranking highly. It appears (from forums and blogs) that the larger sites, with weak content but a lot of trust (links) are moving down positions in natural search. To help explain this, we envisage that the E-commerce sites will be most affected, especially those with individual product pages, found deep in the navigation path, which have the product content pulled in from the manufacturers database. The content is likely not to be unique and hold little substance with regards to page quality. In summary, a large site with lots of pages, which generally fared well in search results before, could now find itself dropping position, if they haven’t got a unique angle on their content and on the information they provide to their customers. Amazon should remain OK as they have unique product descriptions and user reviews.

A few search marketing managers & web masters are citing that Google has changed their Algorithm to purely push those larger sites down and obtain more advertising revenue from them (Adwords), we (amongst others) disagree, this is purely a quality change, giving Google users the most relevant site for their query.

Matt Cutts (Google) posted a video on the update; see above. The news on the change is very brief, so you may want to read a deeper and well explained review over at ‘search engine land’ – Google Confirms “Mayday” update and the impacts on long tail traffic, by Vanessa Fox.

The fact that the algorithm change was rolled out between April 28th and May 3rd means that you could go into your analytic package and see if you notice a drop, or an increase, to then determine whether you have been affected by this change. It would be a positive move to review whether the change has been effected by a number of referrals, or the number of pages that are receiving traffic. Look closely at the number of keyword (from organic search) driving visitors to your website, look at your key-phrase positioning reports to note if any phrases have dropped position. Then strategise on how these can be improved or enhanced.

Most of the reviews out there are rightly saying “Don’t Panic”, which is very good advice indeed. If you are constantly practising high quality SEO, building relevant pages, making content compelling enough that people will want to share and generally improving on page and in content navigation, then we are sure you will be fine. Do keep reviewing who is ranking above you and consider why Google are deeming them to have a higher quality than your site, could it be that they have ‘user comments’ on their sites, regularly update their site or encourage page sharing (badges, widgets, bookmark icons).

Google made more than 500 changes to their algorithm last year alone and 99% of the time none of us even notice. All you need to remember is, it is Google’s mission to display the most relevant and useful page to their customers on search. We do harp on to our clients quite alot about relevancy and page quality, apologies for that, but as you can see from the above update, it has been worth it.

Should you require any assistance with your SEO strategy you can of course contact the Rocktime Flashlight team who are practicing high quality SEO on a number of websites right now.

Author: Sarah Griffiths @sarahgriffiths


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