The MayDay Algorithm Update

We know that Google’s algorithm is constantly changing. Some changes are minor and may even go unnoticed by many website operators.

A Look Back at MayDay

Other Google algorithm updates have been more significant. The “MayDay” update of 2010 being one of them. Between the end of April and beginning of May of that year, many people saw a sudden drop in website traffic, which sent some website owners into a panic.

What else is new, right? Algorithm updates are notorious for affecting website traffic, but the MayDay update was a bit different.

Webmasters specifically noticed that they were losing traffic to pages that were previously performing well with long-tail search referrals.

Websites Affected Most by MayDay

This was very upsetting for SEO professionals who had put a lot of time and effort into identifying and implementing effective long-tail search terms on certain web pages. Some website managers reported drops in the reach of these long-tail terms in the area of 15%.

If you’re in a competitive industry such as e-commerce, that’s a pretty significant blow!

While algorithm changes don’t really target particular industries, e-commerce shops were hit particularly hard by the MayDay update.

In an e-commerce setting, you likely have anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds upon hundreds of different items for sale. With so much search competition out there for core keywords, webmasters often incorporate long-tail search terms in their product pages to help people find their shop online.

The use of long-tail keywords isn’t in and of itself a “black hat” SEO tactic. On the contrary, using them properly can be very beneficial even today. But there is some gray area when it comes to this strategy. It all comes down to the relevance of your long-tail keywords. Do they truly represent your product page, or are they just a grab for traffic? Back in 2010, many e-commerce shops were abusing long-tail keywords, stuffing product pages with vaguely relevant terms in an effort to get eyes on their product pages.

This practice was effective. Helping potential customers find your shop is half the battle when it comes to e-commerce. Even if a user reached a product page when they were really looking for something else, they may stay and click around a shop if it was at least in the same category they were searching for (i.e. women’s clothing, sporting gear, etc.).

Why Did Google Think MayDay Was Necessary?

The thing is, Google and e-commerce shop owners want slightly different things. E-commerce websites want to catch the attention of potential customers in search results if there’s even the slightest chance that they might be interested in their products. However, it’s Google’s goal to help users find EXACTLY what their searching for when they enter a query.

This may be why Google thought the MayDay update was necessary, although we don’t know for sure.

As we know, Google doesn’t always explain the details of these algorithms and their reasons for executing them. To frustrated website owners, these changes can sometimes seem completely arbitrary. That’s understandable, but we assure you, Google isn’t trying to mess with us just for fun.

Others theorized that the algorithm change was meant to keep their newly-minted Caffeine web-indexing system running quickly and smoothly. By giving less clout to certain long-tail terms, they could tighten up query results more efficiently.

Long-Term Consequences of MayDay

Google eventually did confirm that long-tail search terms were targeted in the MayDay update, however, they never did say whether or not Caffeine was the reason. Either way, many algorithm updates have followed MayDay since 2010. Today, Google’s algorithm is completely different than it was back then. However, the frenzy that this update caused in certain niches has had a lasting effect on the way SEO professionals approach their work.

Although MayDay was a big aggravation for some, the effects of this update were as significant as past algorithm tweaks or many others that followed. Instead of causing major organic traffic drops to websites as a whole, it seems that individual pages were affected. This may have spelled bad news for webmasters that were reaping the benefits of high-performing long-tail keywords. At least, in this case, it wasn’t devastating to their websites as a whole.

One thing Google algorithm updates are successful in doing is keeping webmasters and SEO professionals honest. Like many other algorithm tweaks, this forced people to take a look at the quality of their content and links. If MayDay did nothing else, it was the first reminder to webmasters that SEO “hacks” will always be a short-term solution at best.

Even today, incorporating long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy is a great idea, however, your content should be strong enough to stand out without them as well. MayDay effectively weeded out many pages with thin content from SERPs.

What Can We Learn from MayDay?

The takeaway from MayDay, like many other algorithm updates, is that you have to be ready to adjust our SEO strategy at any time. Algorithm changes are occurring constantly, meaning there’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” SEO plan.

You’ll notice that across all algorithm tweaks is stronger, more relevant content is always going to fair better than thin content. Taking the time to make sure that all of the content on your website is properly formatted. Do this for both search engine performance and a great user experience for your website visitors. This is the closest you can get to “algorithm proofing” your website.

But how are business owners supposed to keep up with all of these algorithm changes AND make time for populating their website with quality content? It seems like an impossible task.

But here’s the good news…

You don’t have to do it alone.

Enlisting the help of a search engine optimization professional is a smart move. Whether you’re a local business or you own a large e-commerce shop, you need an SEO pro in your corner. We can ensure that your website is always set up to perform as well as possible in search engines.

Complacency is fatal when it comes to SEO.

Consider this, if you’re not willing to put in the work to optimize your web presence, your competitors probably are. Don’t lose valuable market share because you’re overwhelmed or frustrated with your SEO efforts.

If you want to learn more about how an SEO consultant can help you generate more business in the coming months, contact our office to schedule your free consultation today.