Google Sends the Long Tail Screaming for May-Day

This post is obviously a little late, by now you are probably screaming, pulling your hair out and asking, where the hell is all my traffic gone. Or you are one of the happy guys, hey, my traffic just got a s**t load of more traffic. Go pour yourself a beer, celebrate, live it up, it may not last if this change is still being rolled out !!

Much to everyones frustration, Google zapped people’s organic traffic around the 28th April / May 1st, something I first began reading in this excellent WW Thread. Google stayed silent for quite some time on this. I looked at client sites and some of my personal sites. One of my affiliate sites lost 50% of it’s traffic in the long tail. I decided the change was related to affiliate sites (as we know Google felt the internet was a ceespool of misinformation) so began looking at no following all affiliate links and in some cases removing them from certain pages.

What Did Matt Say

Then came the lovely Matt Cutts, hair and all, to give us some information:


Ok so did Matt say anything worth nothing:

– Change rolled out around April 28th
– It’s an algorithm change, here to stay
– It’s affecting the long tail of search
– The authority of your site is no longer enough to rank inner pages for long tail (interesting)
– Keep adding great content (Yes we know)
– This is not related to caffeine (hmmmm)

All the while large Ecommerce sites are losing traffic. This story has just been taken from search engine lands take on it.

The Interesting Parts

This is a ranking change, not an indexing change. This means your pages are still indexed, still ranking, but just not appearing as high as they once was.

From reading through a lot of threads on this. The first thing that strikes me is the affect on Ecommerce sites that may point to a change in how internal links are accessed or the overall authority of the site. There are countless examples of large ecommerce sites losing traffic. This was cited by Matt Cutts and Vanessa Fox, as being an issue with these pages mostly being full of duplicate content, having little content on them and being several clicks from the home page.

Large sites used to dominate the long tail of search, just by the authority of their domain alone. It will be interesting to see if this changes levels the playing field a little (good for small businesses) or we start to see a lot of niche specific sites pop up top of the SERPS  i.e. home page targeted at a long tail keyword.

What Can I Do

There is so much going on in Google at the moment with the new interface changes, Caffeine still being rolled out and now May-Day giving long tail traffic a kicking. It can be a head spinning time. For May-Day I have been running splits on head vs tail for client sites. For example you can set up advanced segments as follows:

^\w+ \w+ (.+)$

Select Keyword and match this against a regular expression. It will show traffic based on 3 keywords. You can vary this to check between 3, 4, 5 etc.

What Are My Crazy Theories

I can’t help but think it has to be related to Caffeine. Google now has the power to process a lot more data about individual pages. The link economy created by Google must be something they want to change. It also seems Google is trying to eliminate web pages that rank for queries based on the authority of the domain alone. May-Day could be a combination of link devaluation and user behavior for long tail keywords i.e. internal pages that get traffic, even though it’s not to relevant.

When you work in SEO, you hear what you want to hear. It seems a lot of people are not happy with the way Google has rolled this change out. But for every unhappy webmaster, there must be a happy webmaster out there capturing some of the traffic.

For us that work in online, make sure your skill set is diverse enough to deal with this. When organic falls off a cliff, you need to put an Adwords strategy in place to take account of the traffic loss (maybe Googles plan all along !!!), do you know enough about Analytics to determine what’s happening ? Have you started looking into conversion optimisation to get the most bang for buck out of existing traffic ? What about social media to give your existing user base the tools to spread the word about your brand ?

All mediums work together, don’t be over dependent on Google !!!

About Kieran Flanagan

Online Marketer who implements both inbound and paid strategies to help companies grow internationally. Lover of content marketing, SEO, analytics, CRO and strategy. A highly motivated marketing geek high on data crack.