Back in 2010: An In-Depth Look at Google’s MayDay Algorithm

Search Engine Optimization isn’t something that you can master overnight.

There are many factors that go into creating a strong, successful campaign. These factors include everything from the quality of your links to the relevance of your topic and the overall domain authority of your website.

Google’s algorithm updates are arguably what create the biggest effect on a site’s SEO performance, though.

The world of SEO changes all the time, often without notice. As such, it’s up to digital marketers and site owners to stay on their toes and look out for the next big change in search.

It helps to learn from the past as well. Many digital marketers even find it helpful to keep a list of Google algorithm updates.

If you want to start a list of your own, start by taking a closer look at the 2010 MayDay algorithm update that significantly impacted how SEO works today.

A Brief Summary of the MayDay Algorithm Update

In the few days’ time between April 28th, 2010 and May 3rd, 2010 many large sites and “webmasters” realized there was a big drop in their traffic. On the other hand, some sites were seeing a significant boost in their traffic.

But, everyone was asking themselves the same thing: “what did Google do now?”.

The answer: Google implemented a change in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) process that focused on more in-depth, better quality content.

Google announced there would be no rollback of this change.

They did this after months of researching the algorithm’s implications. They were confident in the positive effects this would have on the user experience moving forward.

They also didn’t give this change a name.

The term “MayDay” was created on web boards as SEO masters were trying to understand what had just happened to their sites. “MayDay” was coined due to the fact that the changes occurred around May 1st.

The Reasons for This Google Algorithm Update

If you were an honest business person who knew a thing or two about SEO in 2010, the main reason for Google’s MayDay update was pretty clear.

Google was trying to address the issue of thin content.

Thin content refers to pages with little or no value to the user.

It’s something site owners were using for “link juice.” They weren’t trying to educate their audience; they were hoping to get a lot of traffic for a little bit of work.

Google decided to change things in order to offer better results for user inquiries.

But, it took a while for some site owners to catch on.

Here are 3 reasons why thin content doesn’t work – and why the MayDay update was much-needed.

1. To Create More Emphasis on Quality Content

Content has always been king in SEO. It hasn’t always been great, though.

Before the MayDay Algorithm change, many site owners were settling for sub-par content. They weren’t trying to start a conversation with their users or offer them any information of value.

Instead, they just wanted to get a good Google ranking and sell a product to users.

One of the big issues with this is that not all users are ready to buy when they go to Google to ask a question. In fact, many of them are more focused on researching what they need before they make their purchase.

2. To Encourage Webmasters to “Clean Up” Their Links

Link building today is fully focused on quality.

Successful link building means guiding users to pages of reference to show you’ve done your research. It helps sites get noticed by bigger publications and thought leaders, and it tells users that content has been produced with quality in mind.

Links didn’t work that way back in 2010.

Site owners were using links to guide users to their main pages via small pages with thin content. Or, they were trying to give the impression of having a large, expansive website by having users click on their item pages.

Google caught on and rolled out MayDay to clean up the link building process.

3. To Improve Niche Searches and Results

Lots of big sites suffered when MayDay changed how long-tail keywords were showing up on the results page.

This was the other side of MayDay: improving how long-tail inquiries were matched to relevant, informative links.

With no more thin content to “spam” the results page, long-tail inquiries were leading users to niche sites that had the answers they were looking for. These sites were able to reach their audience through the quality, informative content they had already been producing.

For the first time in a long time, smaller sites stood a chance in search.

The Long-Term Effects of the MayDay Algorithm

Some of the buzz that happened as a result of the MayDay algorithm was actually trying to take away its importance. There were a handful of digital marketers speculating that this would be just another of the hundreds of updates Google does.

They told people not to pay too much attention to MayDay.

It’s true, Google was rolling out a lot of changes at the time. They weren’t announcing each one and they were keeping a lot of things behind closed doors.

All for good reason, though.

There are two important long-term effects to take away from MayDay.

The Panda Update

Looking back, MayDay may have been a hint for the Panda update soon to come.

Panda happened in February of 2011.

Its main focus was to reward digital marketers who had done things right (and honest). The update made it much easier for site owners with high-quality content to succeed in search, while also flagging sites that had thin content.

The Fall of Thin Content

Thin content was all over the internet before MayDay and Panda happened.

Site owners were “content farming”, publishing duplicate content, and spamming their landing pages with ads. They weren’t thinking about the user experience.

This isn’t to say that thin content doesn’t exist at all anymore.

But, Google isn’t fooled by it in this day and age.

Thanks to the ongoing list of Google updates like MayDay and Panda – plus many, many others that came after – users are now much better able to get thoughtful answers for their inquiries.

Applying Old and New Google Algorithms Today

Why should you worry about something that happened in 2010 when creating content in 2018? Because you don’t want to make the same mistakes as site owners who suffered from the MayDay algorithm update.

The only way to succeed in search is to produce content that offers value.

You have to know your user and strive to give them a better experience than anyone else can. You need to be informative, encouraging, and on-trend.

Put simply, you have to carefully tailor your content.

For help doing this and succeeding with your SEO campaigns, click here.