I have been hearing complains of traffic loss from some of the friends and clients since last month. At first sight it looked like normal client ranting, but this time they were right. Some of the clients had lost significant amount of traffic and that too Google organic traffic suddenly. This sudden website traffic drop happened at the end of April, 2010. I am going to explain this with live case study of one of my client. Client has an ecommerce store in the hospitality industry.
Live Case Study of Google MayDay Algorithm Update for Longtail Keywords
Here is the screenshot of one of the client’s Analytics account. You can clearly see two arrows pointing sudden website traffic loss from 30th. April, 2010 to 12th. May, 2010.
SEOs who work on client projects would understand the feeling of client getting angry and giving all kind of threats (BullSh***) to you when something in analytics is not right! Luckily the traffic started coming back from 13th. May, 2010; but not up to the mark.
Here are some of the points I was noticing during the tension period (I call it tension period when client is on my back):
- Client’s Google ranking for major keywords were as it is.
- I could see that all the competitors’ were in the same place for major keywords, so it wasn’t an algorithm change (this is how it looked like in the first place).
- Because of traffic loss, obviously conversions were down as well.
- Head keywords (main two phrase keywords) ranking was as it is.
- Traffic loss was mainly on the longtail keywords. Due to this, individual product pages were not ranking at all.
- Conversions were down because people were not able to find individual products directly.
- Google has gone back to basics and were focusing more on phrase keywords, e.g. when you search for “catering equipments” in Google, the websites who have targeted this keyword in title as the exact phrase are ranking higher rather than websites having these two keywords in the title but not necessarily in the same order.
- We continued building link in the same manner as we were doing earlier.
- We changed the Google Analytics code and implemented the new code. (Don’t know if this has any effect on the tracking or not).
- We implemented a new section on the homepage of the website which included links to inner pages and will tke visitors directly to product detail page.
Reactions from the leaders
There was thread at Webmasterworld which started discussing exactly this on May 1. I was following this thread closely but not much came out from this.
I came across an article from Vanessa Fox on searchengineland on May 27 which confirmed that it was an algorithm change from Google for Longtail keyword searches. This is what she has to say:
This change seems to have primarily impacted very large sites with “item” pages that don’t have many individual links into them, might be several clicks from the home page, and may not have substantial unique and value-added content on them. For instance, ecommerce sites often have this structure. The individual product pages are unlikely to attract external links and the majority of the content may be imported from a manufacturer database. Of course, as with any change that results in a traffic hit for some sites, other sites experience the opposite. Based on Matt’s comment at Google I/O, the pages that are now ranking well for these long tail queries are from “higher quality” sites (or perhaps are “higher quality” pages).
The video on may 30 from Googler Matt Cutts made it confirmed that it is a permanent change in the algorithm. Here is the video for you to watch: