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Google MAYDAY Update - SERP Changes May 2010

 12:53 pm on May 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

< continued from [webmasterworld.com...] >

Now, as the dust settles from the last days and my panic is under control :->, I thought I share some ideas here.

Basic infos:

1. Nature of site: eCommerce

2. Type of link building: across the board
specialties: our sellers get subdomains, minimal link buying, majorly press, partners, etc.

3. Pages on domain: somewhere around 3 Mio. pages,
majorly product details and listing pages of products

History: Until Tuesday we ramped in around 200k Uniques a day - very strong long tail traffic, 65% of the landing pages are the product details.

What happened: First the site lost one PR point from 6 to 5 in the last update. Traffic went up, so I did not care at all, but maybe it completes the picture.

Tuesday, April 27th: solid and good traffic, but slightly lower than last week.

Wednesday, April 28th: first noticeable drop of around 10%

Thursday: 25% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Yesterday: 27% loss of traffic to Tuesday

Think this is the current status: Lost around 25% of power/traffic somehow.


What happened?

Hard to say really, but here are some cents for the collective thought pool:

a) Keywords I monitor are still where they were, but these (around 20) keywords are not really LONG TAIL

b) Some merchants selling strong in the past weeks dropped out of the sky and vanished from our top sellers list: that could be the reason.

I looked here in this senseless long thread :-) and found the following quotes spark a clue:

I think the loss of long tail is more to do with Google's incredible improvements in Adwords relevance matching. - internetheaven

Well, my loss in traffic is majorly long tail - so that area fits at least.

Long tail traffic in most cases relies on internal link juice, this is how it works. - SEOPTI

There is so much insight in that one sentence, I love it!

And I can relate to it in my case:

The few top sellers vanishing from the list are providing thousands of niche products for very specific purposes. They lost the traffic and that whole picture falls in to place:

If this is the Caffeine update, IMHO the following happens while we type:

Deep content is gathered from domains not crawled so deep before. The amount of pages with long tail keywords doubles, tripples or just magnifolds and changes the game as a whole.

If internal link juice is now weaker or stronger: Link building has now a different meaning.

Link juice must be handled under a differen perspective.

Even if we can build up 1,000 named backlinks to a page, it looses its power on 3 Mio. children quite quickly.

If there are major authority sites unlocked by Caffeine with "before 100,000 pages" and after "10,000,000 deep pages" we have now

9,900,000 new enemies in the long tail....

That would explain a lot to me and I wonder what you think?


< the active thread for this discussion is here: [webmasterworld.com...] >

[edited by: tedster at 7:44 pm (utc) on May 22, 2010]



 11:47 pm on May 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

At least this thread ranks 1st for the "G**g*e mayday update" query, and that's a slap on G*s face, thanks tedster and pontifex for cooperation!
G**g*e May Day update: 215,000,000 SRs returned, but mostly off topic (it's new, hand them that) wow, WebmasterWorld 1st!

G**g*e Big Daddy update: 319,000
G**g*e Florida update: 3,940,000

Wonder what you make of all this!

Does anybody remember this: [mattcutts.com...] MC was there to reassure everyone, and isn't this very funny back then from MC:
Remember that Bigdaddy involves new infrastructure and is not just a data push or algorithm update. Donít take it as a promise, but Iíd expect a new data center to be converted to Bigdaddy roughly every 10 days or so

Isn't the same or a similar situation happening?, if so why can't someone post something on that blog or another official blog!

[edited by: tedster at 12:11 am (utc) on May 2, 2010]


 1:46 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

But I didnt ask for membership to the club Dusky! Do I get some sort of t-shirt? Maybe one that says MAYDAY ran over my website and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?

Thanks 1-script, decade plus of focusing on content and the user got us those links. One of my competitors I have talked to that is experiencing this as well has 3 times that. Given your feedback 1-script I can throw out my theory I had going.

I sure hope the later suggestion Tedster makes is the case.

"fat belly", I love that tedster. More detailed parsing looks to be very centered around 3 term but I am seeing a noted drop in 4 and 5 as well.

Pounding through the piles of data across top 200,000 terms per week so far I can see the following

0% drop in single term, actually a 4% increase in single term
6% drop in two term
36% drop in three term
12% drop in four plus term

Will post back when I can get more refined data. Never really bothered looking past three term to much but I guess I wont have to bother now that the low hanging fruit has now fallen off the tree.

Oh and one last thing, I mentioned and several other members have mentioned the disappearance of the deepcrawl starting mid january. A few days ago the deep crawl got turned on to the sites that it was turned off on in January. Gbot is hammering the server for the last few days, and I do mean hammering, never seen anything like it.

Grepped the log and traced, it is 100% gbot and not some russian exploit crawler.

This is only happening to the very same sites that have been hit by this update. Could be a fluke, doubt it though. Has to be related somehow.


 2:41 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

drall, you will get the metallica t-shirt with the four horsemen of the apocalypse :)

I really think it's just a side-effect, the decrease in long tail traffic is huge, I'm fighting analytics to find something useful.


 3:10 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

It almost sounds like the beginning of the end for the 'catch-all mega sites' to me...
Is this basically the type of site that's seeing the traffic hit?

I guess another way of phrasing the same basic question, theory, idea is: Are most of the sites 'niche specific' and large, or are they 'cross-niche', 'cross-market', 'take traffic from everywhere' type sites? I'm guessing they are the latter, because I've been looking at some niche specific sites numbers and the long-tail is still there, but they are very specific on a single subject...

Also, are smaller, niche specific sites what you're being replaced with?

The preceding 'mega site hit' theory excludes the teacher's pet, WikiPedia, of course.

John Webster

 4:05 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Has anyone checked their site pages indexed? I've noticed decreases in pages indexed of as much as 90% after each major Google upgrade.

There are 3 very old and large Aust. sites I use as a rule of thumb (not clients).

Site 1 = 726 K pages (Down 67%)
Site 2 = 321 K pages (Down 90%)
Site 3 = 15.9 M pages (Down 45%)

Huge reductions in site pages indexed will devestate long term referrals.

[edited by: tedster at 4:13 am (utc) on May 2, 2010]
[edit reason] obscure the specific sites [/edit]


 5:03 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't know how much my opinion matters but here we go.

are smaller, niche specific sites what you're being replaced with?

I am agree with TheMadScientist.

I have site on tight niche theme or you can say, micro niche site. Since the time you people are discussing on losing traffic on long tail kws, I have seen increase in traffic on my site for longtail keywords.

As this is my first SEO site, It's not big site. My site has around 34 page. Site is affiliate site and promoting only one product. Content on all pages is related to that product only. Most of backlinks are from articles only.

I was trying to get rank for TWO word key-phrase and I achieved that. Recently my site has started getting traffic for long tail keywords which I was not getting previously. By long tail, I mean THREE-FOUR word key-phrases. Majority of them are THREE words key-phrases.

I have tried to include most of information about my web site. So that BIG members can analyze the data and conclude what's going on in G* backend. If I am missing any important information, please feel free to ask. I will provide as much information as possible.


 5:40 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for that information, seolearner - your observations are definitely helpful. It also sounds like you are learning very well, since you are ranking for your target phrase. Even in a micro-niche, it is an achievement - especially making an affiliate site that Google is will to reward with organic traffic. Well done.

And your data points do line up with - well, with whatever it is that we're trying to comprehend about this moment on G.


 6:18 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Has anyone checked their site pages indexed? I've noticed decreases in pages indexed of as much as 90% after each major Google upgrade.

I don't normally check how many indexed pages I have, but I did the other day and noticed about a 50% drop. Images on the other hand, were about correct.

One thing I have noticed towards the end of April / beginning of May is an increase of 404 pages on page one of Google. (Mainly long tail).


 6:26 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Dont know if this will help either but our smaller niche pr 5-6 sites that we barely work on and have almost no links are seeing absolutely no changes in traffic through all of this.

The same here; not so high PR but the same situation.

Huge reductions in site pages indexed will devestate long term referrals.

I just detected a 70% decrease last tuesday, april 27.

It almost sounds like the beginning of the end for the 'catch-all mega sites' to me...

I hope you're wrong but, what could be the reason from the Google point of view to take such decission? Maybe they think they are good enough to need no of authority/old/big/catch-all sites and can evaluate on the fly any small/niche website.

Where must I send the photo to have my club's id card?


 7:07 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

is it still dancing / data being shuffled?

i'm currently hit with -900 penalty for now. wonder if i should start the panic.

(-600 happened to me mid-April, but got back to top10 in a few days)


 7:09 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I hope you're wrong but, what could be the reason from the Google point of view to take such decission?

Maybe the smaller sites really are (and have been) more topically focused, but (using tedster's thought about G being able to do more with the long-tail now) previously they've had to default to PR or even overall size + weight + trust to have the semblance of accuracy, and now they don't need the 'high PR trusted mega site' to occupy the top spot(s) and some niche specific sites geared directly toward what people are looking for are going to replace them for the long-tail queries? IDK, just a thought and pure speculation.

The reason I haven't gone the 'mega site' direction is there are too many people chipping away at the edges of your traffic and there's not enough ability to 'micro manage' a site that's too large of scale, IMO, and I've thought a day where they were not the answer for rankings was coming, but I could be totally off base, even though in reading through this thread that's sort of how it looks.

Another thought or two I had when deciding to not go with a mega site:
There are people here who run mega sites and are going to 'crunch data' for two days to try and figure out what's going on, and what I keep wondering is how long someone who has to do that is going to be able to outrank my 20,000 page niche specific site when I'm aiming at you and your rankings? Then I turn the question around and ask myself if that's the position I want to be in or do I want to be the person running (managing) a few of the 20,000 page niche specific sites and just chipping away at other sites until my super-specific sites are stuck at the top?

Here's another question that might lead to some answers:
How are you possibly going to 'dial in' the SEO on 1,000,000 pages you have to 'generically' manage across a bunch of niches the way I can focus a 20,000 page site?

IMO The only thing you can really hope for is G gives you credit for overall weight and doesn't change anything, because the sites I run can be so much more 'niche optimized' than a huge site can it's not even funny.

Maybe something along these lines has changed (is changing)?
Again IDK, but from what I'm reading and seeing it looks like it.

John Webster

 8:50 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

This issue of reduced pages indexed is not new. I've observed it after Universal, Big Daddy, Jagger, etc. About 3 - 6 months later numbers of pages indexed are back to normal and so are SE referrals.

My theory is that Google uses these updates to spring clean its index. Can you imagine the incredible cost of indexing the billions of pages of duplicate content, abandoned shopping carts and all the other cyberjunk?

The problem is that it is the most effectively SEOed sites that suffer the biggest drop in SE referrals at these times.

Being at the mercy of Google is a hell of a way to run a business.

You also need a hell of a good relationship with a client when all you can say is "be patient it will come back, trust me". I have not found anything that I can do to change the Google status quo. I just keep the client's SEO programming going as if nothing has changed. So far, it has worked every time.


 10:58 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Where are the sites that see a strong rise in traffic?

I mean our lost long tailers must go somewhere else and I saw NO reports of heavy jumps upwards or are these webmasters just playing it low?



 11:28 am on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing a different issue in my micro niche. Sites with new content on home page seem to be doing better since 5/1.

Also one 250 page site with only 10 on topic external back-links to the page that is ranking for our top 2 word term. Internal link structure or site ranking seems to be pulling them up to similar levels to pages with hundreds of on-topic external back-links.

Both of these things are too easy to spam to last.



PS Having said that I may add some fresh content and focus my internal back-links. It can't really do any harm.


 12:02 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

sid: fresh content & focused backlinks: always a good idea, yet a big thing on a few million pages!

on a side note:

the site: operator is not bringing up the domain root as the first result since Wednesday, too.

I now get subpages first...


[edited by: tedster at 7:19 pm (utc) on May 2, 2010]


 1:36 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Like John Webster says, I noticed a decreases in pages indexed in my case appears about 65k pages indexed but in a moment I saw again its normal number of more than 2 millions and after some hours again came back about 65k.

If we've lost many visits, who has taken it?

Sorry for my english


 1:43 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have an image site in the entertainment sector and I'm observing the opposite.

Where I once used to rank at #1 or 2 for long tail strings such as: name1+name2+title+widgets, Google is now giving these queries to the big guys Wikipedia, Youtube and a few other big names. When I look at the cached page of these sites I often see the message: "These terms only appear in links pointing to this page:Widgets"


 2:00 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google made a blog post about the Webmaster Tools reporting inaccurate indexed pages. We saw ours drop to nearly nothing and then back up to normal again. So hopefully everyone is back to okay in that category.

From the traffic loss topic, we are also what you would consider a large general topic mega-site. We don't have millions of pages, but we hit the six figure range.

As I stated earlier, we are seeing a 10-15% drop in traffic starting this past week sometime. But in the big picture it is all relative. Over the past 10 years we've seen it go up and down, up and down, over and over.

I would recommend letting the dust settle for a few months before making any big changes. Just my opinion.


 4:22 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

For one of my clients, traffic doubled in the last two weeks. The site has been up for 8 years. There is a solid jump in traffic.

Why? Two weeks ago, I built a Facebook strategy for the site. Customized landing page in fan page; lots of photos and info in the tabs; Facebook PPC; and added Facebook comment boxes to 500+ pages at the site.

When someone writes a comment in a Facebook comment box on one of the site's pages, that comment shows up on the person's Facebook page. That person's circle of friends see it. A second comment sends the link a second circle of friends. Just by adding comment boxes, you get massive exposure.

Facebook ads also work well: you can target by age, location, interests, and so on. Get started with $50 in free credit: use the code fb-adtech-sf when setting up your ads (I get nothing for passing it on).

SEO in Facebook is interesting. I met with a company a few months ago. They have 2m pages with auto-generated meta-tags and headers. That's cute. I asked them "so how are you going to SEO for Facebook?" No meta-tags, no link counting, no backrubs, no pagerank, no page-format indexing. They built their entire business model on Google.

Google wants to be secretive and insufferably arrogant? They can buzz off. Try Facebook. It works. I'm rolling out Facebook strategies for all of our clients.

Another tip: kids prefer Bing. Why? It's prettier. Isn't that funny? It's not about algorithms or speed. It's pretty that works.


 4:54 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another tip: kids prefer Bing. Why? It's prettier. Isn't that funny? It's not about algorithms or speed. It's pretty that works.

Where did you find that rearch? I've never read anything about Bing versus Google and sites being pretty. Everyone I know uses Google and the kids in our schools are specifically taught to "Google" for results.


 5:01 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I mean our lost long tailers must go somewhere else and I saw NO reports of heavy jumps upwards or are these webmasters just playing it low?

You're an experienced webmaster so you shouldn't make questions like that.

Obviously when you receive more traffic from Google is because it finally recognizes your great job and you can only sit and see traffic coming; no need to read about or post your secrets elsewhere.


 5:13 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

@lexur :->

well, you may just anonymize your findings and just post: "long tail traffic up by 20% since Tuesday", so we know that certain sites are seeing the opposite in the same time frame...


 5:59 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Link spamming fools Google Algorithm -

This is my first time posting on here. I have noticed some very strange results on Google recently too. Sites with 0 PR that are ranking high for top keywords and phrases in my profession, using nothing more than link spamming.

Example: one site is ranking for top keywords through hundreds of link spam sites ( many of the sites are in Russian, but the keyword links are all in English )

The site is owned by the same company that has link spammed another people search site to the top of the Google Rankings in this field.

A Google search for link:example.com reveals hundreds of link spam sites that are propelling both of these sites to the top of the Google results.

A similar link search for those sites on Yahoo reveals even more sites that link spam to those two sites.

Sometimes the link spam is obvious - where links towards the top of the page saying "keyword phrase" link to both sites.

However, very often, the links are cloaked or hidden - where you can't see the link, but a View->Page Source from your browser and a find text (ctrl-f) and you will find a hidden link.

Again, there are literally hundreds of such examples for these two sites. It is paying off. Alexa rankings for one are through the roof in a very short time and over 50% of their traffic is arriving through natural search results. The other is rising fast in the Google ranks too and will be in the same spot within months.

Is anyone else seeing this in other search areas?

[edited by: tedster at 7:01 pm (utc) on May 2, 2010]
[edit reason] removed specific details [/edit]


 6:11 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think I am one of those who got hit by a similar update back in March - March 17th to be precise..Traffic dropped 50% and there has been no looking up since then..Any advice on what I should be doing? It was a wordpress blog growing at a healthy 30% month on month thriving merely on a steady increase in natural linking..no artificial SEO from my end other than internal linking to older pages..


 6:21 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

NO reports of heavy jumps upwards

I have several tiny, feeder sites that jumped up several positions to #1 or 2 in last weeks. They have domain name with exact match for the 2 word search phrases they rank for. I haven't put much work on these and never expected them to rank as they do (some were competitors I bought out).

Unfortunately, my main site is going the opposite way and losing ranking and traffic for several terms. It is replaced by exact match keyword domains with far less backlinks (my own, and others) , and article site pages.

I see the beneficiaries being 2 types:

1. Old domains with less current backlink activity. Regaining ranking from years ago.

2. New domains or article site pages with tightly focused content and keyphrase in backlinks.

In my case, I really don't see these results remaining as they are, as some of these newly ranking pages/sites are only weeks old, with nothing but thousands of robot generated blog comments for backlinks.

Seems to me they have to tweak the knobs some more. But I believe the trend does indicate their desire to elevate smaller niche sites that they think are good information for visitors, and bring down larger sites.


 8:38 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

With web growing so rapidly, millions of new pages created everyday, the number of pages in Google's index could have started to get unmanageable, so they might have implemented more stringent requirements on what gets included.


 9:33 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

What if google simply wants to maximize their share from AdSense revenue?
My traffic dropped around 20% on Saturday and Sunday (compared to Saturdays and Sundays from April, an average 80k uniques / day) but strangely my AdSense revenue is not dropping. I notice a 22% increase in the CTR!


 9:40 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Everyone I know uses Google and the kids in our schools are specifically taught to "Google" for results.

In the Jr High my daugher attends, Google has been blocked and the default search is Bing.

People are slowly coming around to realize that Google is not the Internet.


 10:30 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Traffic to my site is off over 30% from March and down even more from last year. Having tested a bunch of key phrases and seen them slide in rank a few spots, I attributed the drop in traffic to the update.

However, the percentage of referrals from Google as a percentage of all referrers has remained unchanged or even gone up a point or two. Ditto for Bing, Yahoo and direct traffic. So it would seem that the drop in traffic is seasonal or niche-related.

If the percentage is unchanged, though, and main phrases such as "Acme widgets" have dropped in rank, that would mean that long tail phrases must have increased in rank.


 10:52 pm on May 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

People are slowly coming around to realize that Google is not the Internet.

Agree, very slowly. Should take Bing about ten years to catch Google.

I'm not sure why anyone would block Google, after all it was Bing missed big time when it started returning #*$! videos for common searches...

Back on topic, we're seeing a 10% decrease in traffic from Google, week over week. Other search engines are showing the same.

Could be weather reated too, last weekend was awful just about everywhere in the US (raining...).


 1:14 am on May 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Can someone shed some light on when we are going to see one set of SERPs that is consistent all the time? Whenever I search for my keyword (3 word term) I get presented with two different SERPS on google.com. One is very similar to the datacenter IP ( which I believe shows Caffeine results and I rank much higher) and then there is the other dataset I get that shows my sites anywhwere from 3-15 spots lower ranking depending on each site. It seems to me that is 50% one set and 50% the other set. By the way I'm in the US.

When is all of this is going to settle down once and for all? This is has been going on now for like 3 months or so. I mean before it would be like once in a blue moon where I would get a different SERP listing for my keyword, but most of the time it was the same set of SERPS. Now whenever I check my traffic and notice an increase I assume that good set of data is being shown for that particular audience at that time and then next hour it goes away.

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