It’s been confirmed by Google that their latest algorithmic update, which has been coined “Mayday” by the folks at Webmaster World, does in fact affect long tail search queries. Google’s Matt Cutts responded to a question at the Google I/O conference by saying “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 algo update seems to be affecting really large sites that have many deep pages, like, say, an ecommerce site. Sites like these tend to rank well for longer tail queries (i.e. product level pages), but generally don’t have many inbound links, which is a “quality” indicator in Google’s algorithm. With the new update, these pages that were currently ranking have suddenly seen their positions drop, decreasing site traffic and revenue. Site that are ranking in their place are sites considered “high quality” by Google. There are hundreds of ranking factors that make up Google’s algorithm, but one of the major factors is the # of quality inbound links you have to a page. Here is an explanation from Vanessa Fox over on Search Engine Land.
So, if you’re one of these sites that has seen a sudden decline in long tail traffic, what do you do? Here are a couple of thoughts:
- Utilize linking to your benefit. If many of your item/product pages are no longer ranking, or seeing a decrease in traffic, consider starting a link building campaign, both internally and externally.
- Don’t rely solely on search. Make sure you aren’t relying completely on Google to drive your traffic/sales. There are many other ways to ensure you receive quality traffic/sales. For example, social media is a great way to find drive highly relevant traffic and create brand awareness. You may tap into folks that would have never found you otherwise. Email newsletters. Paid search campaigns. Industry/Product specific directories. Partnerships.
There are many different ways to obtain traffic, and you need to make sure you are exploring all of them. Relying solely on Google is a recipe for disaster as Google will continue to update their algos to fit their own desires of what “quality” rankings are/should be. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Think of it like this…you’ve identified a large set of keywords that your business/product are relevant for, right? You aren’t banking on one keyword to drive all of the traffic and sales, right? I sure hope not. In order to capture as much traffic as possible, you’ve optimized your site to catch folks at different stages of the buying cycle. It’s the same exact thing when thinking about your overall marketing strategy. Don’t bank on Google driving all of your traffic and sales. Now, we all know that Google is a significant piece of the pie, but make sure you are expanding your reach by using/testing new mediums as well.