wingslevel - 1:04 pm on Apr 3, 2012 (gmt 0)
from mhansen - Looking at a few of the pages where we are seeing a drop in direct long tail traffic from Google, it's obvious to me that the internal anchor text has been discounted, as well as some kind of optimization de-ranking. (or a combination of both)
Formerly top ranked (1-3 serp rank, longtail) internal pages such as [brand widget model] that were linked only internally are no longer ranking in the top 20. The main homepage however, still ranks in the top 5 for the longtail. Since the website homepage still ranks in the top 5, it cannot be an "authority not passing" type issue to me.
I see this a often - we have lots of two word category pages on our ecom site that outrank their specific three word child pages in the serp. So, the query would be 'widget brand model' and the serp would return our 'widget brand' page - this in spite of the fact that we have a 'widget brand model' page which is full of good content about that model. For me, this example strikes to the heart of the longtail problem. As a searcher, when i query 'widget brand model', the specificity is not accidental.
I think it would be great if google, whose engineers spend lots of time trying to divine searcher's intent, could relax some of that functionality on longer queries - i think it would be an easy dial to turn - more weight to on-page signals on progressively longer queries. This way less sophisticated searchers who are typing in single and 2 word keywords would get all of the help they need and people who know what they want won't be frustrated.