There has been much gossip around the alleged Google update which occurred around the first May bank holiday (aptly named the Mayday update) by SEO’s over the last few weeks with much analysis of data to measure the impact of said update.
This was a ranking update in the search results for Google and was aimed at improving the rankings for long tail keywords (longer search phrases which have less search volume but generally convert better), for high quality (authoritative) sites, which is great for users and reduces the amount of spam in the serps.
Your search traffic will consist of natural traffic from high volume generic terms (those highly competitive terms which can be hard to rank for) and the longtail keywords which are very niche, each only providing a few visits but are easier to rank highly for, analysing your natural keywords will show that you have many different longtail keyword phrases which each only provide a small number of visits, but add up to a large proportion of your traffic.
The recent update was intended to give high quality sites better visibility in the serps for long tail queries and has been rigorously tested and will not be rolled back, according to Matt Cutts.
So what’s the impact to your website? Well your pages which were ranked well for the longtail terms, may have seen a drop in position, with new pages for competitors appearing the serps pushing your visibility down and therefore affecting the volume of natural traffic received.
The sites that appear to have been affected the most by this update are large e-commerce sites, (think Amazon) with product or item pages which have a small inbound link ratio, usually more than three clicks away from the homepage and have little content on them.
How do you know if you have been affected? Analysis your longtail keywords to see which niche phrases were driving similar amounts of natural traffic to site on a monthly basis before and after the may day update, (or converting well) if you are seeing less traffic or conversions from these niche keywords then you may have been affected.
Another way of measuring the impact is too look at the number of natural visits and the number of keywords which drove those visits, if you are now seeing less keywords driving natural to your site, but the generic volume terms are still performing well and seasonality is not an issue, then you can safely assume the longtail keywords have taken a hit.
How do you reverse this? Again content and your websites authority are key to combating the effects of this update but so are looking at your site structure and in-bound link strategy.
Three steps to combating the Mayday update:
Continual analysis of your natural traffic and conversions from longtail keywords will allow you to measure the impact of the above actions.