Google Mayday

Below you will find what Matt Cutts had to say regarding this algorithmic update which has been dubbed Mayday, but I hope to provide some resources and insight in to the conditions and solutions if you lost a great deal of Google organic traffic as a result of the Mayday update.

To summarize, between 4/28/2010 and 5/3/2010 Google made an algorithmic change affecting the organic rank/traffic for long tail searches. Head searches are not as widely affected, but some have been reported. This change is in fact a quality update which has passed all the normal Google department approvals and testing. It is not part of or related to the Caffeine update, but the goal is similar, as in any algorithmic change the target is to improve search results. Lastly, this change is not temporary, so if you have lost traffic, you will need to make some changes to recover…. they are not going to just come back.

You will find that solving this issue for your site is going to be primarily accomplished through quality, specifically content quality. With relationship to ecommerce, the longtail keywords will generally exist only in the product/page title. Ideally, this does not provide the relevancy needed to rank this page for the longtail.

Longtail keywords have traditionally been an easy target for ecommerce… Just pop the longtail in the page title and bingo you rank. Easy pickens. However, as many already know, this allowed pages to rank for longtails, which were not necessarily the best result. Essentially, some pretty low quality, content lacking and non-authoritative pages were allowed to rank. Google seeks to now make the criteria for longtails more closely matched to the criteria for bigger box searches.

Ok, so your traffic is way down… You’ve determined that the majority of the loss is in 3 to 5 word keyword phrases (longtail), what can you do?

While the answers are pretty clear, there is no escaping the hard work and time which will be needed to resolve this issue. As noted before the most effective use of your time will be spent on content, quality content.

Quality Content for Ecommerce Tips

  • Write unique, descriptive and substantial product descriptions for your products. Include several variations of the longtail keyword in your copy. For example if the longtail keyword is bright red light bulbs, you might include red light bulbs, bright red lightbulbs, bright lightbulbs: red…etc. These inclusions support the longtail keyword and are adding relevance to the search query.
  • Link specific longtail variations in the link text from your other pages, especially category pages above the longtail product. (internal linking)
  • Make a concerted effort in your pages to keep the content topical. Unfortunately, for ecommerce this can mean you will need to limit unrelated marketing on page, or wash it with more topical content on the page. For example, a product page for a green banana may be cross selling many other products on the page… These products, even if related, dilute the main theme or topic of the page, the product.
  • Concentrate on product pages to start and then work your way towards the top. Product pages inevitably have more ability to rank, as ideally these pages have a more targeted content base. So your time working on these pages is the most “bang for your buck”.
  • Now might be the best time to consider getting a blog going. A blog hosted ON YOUR DOMAIN ( will provide additional longtail opportunities, internal linking, popularity and of course help to boost your authority. Post things like reviews, tips, holiday or seasonal trends, product suggestions and even a coupon or 2. Don’t forget to promote your Facebook fan page and Twitter accounts as well.
  • Make sure products have unique page titles and Meta descriptions. Titles should be short (about 65 characters), relevant, direct and unique to every page. Descriptions should be 100 to 250 characters, relevant to the page and of course unique to the page. While the Meta description does not help you rank, it certainly can cause duplication and quality issues with Google if ignored.

I think the most logical explanation of Mayday is to say that Google finally recognized the fact that longtail searches were slipping through the cracks. Longtail searches have never had even close to the same relevancy, quality and authority requirements as shorter, bigger box phrases do. As a result, many, even if unwittingly, have cheated the system by having low(er) quality pages able to rank fairly well for longtail searches.

Truth be told, as we look through our SEO client’s analytics…. The only ones who have dropped, are not creating the quality, unique and descriptive content on their product pages which we have always required. Those sites that are spending the time to have unique, quality descriptions are pulling the same or more organic traffic in their longtail searches.

No doubt that creating this level of content is hard work, but when you think about the increased convertibility of longtail search referrals…. How can you not allocate the time and resources needed to eliminate duplication and create great content.