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Google MAYDAY Update - SERP Changes May 2010



12:53 pm on May 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

< 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]


8:45 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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for webmaster tools keyworld I am getting google webmaster tools and that has always been the case. Why not try google webmaster as a keyword? For me it is faster typing the address in the address bar and let google suggest the sites especially if I use them regularly.

On your 2nd post - lost of users have posted similar observations and it doesn't mean that you will not see any results at some from point the googlebot hits... you may or you may not! But that doesn't mean that google are returning bad results either.


9:05 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Since 3 of May, Google Bot has tripled the activity!
In the last month I've lost 1/3 of my # of reported pages, I hope this is the best.
I have several domains and is the same situation now.

BTW I use CDN for static content/images and cookieless domains since one week ago.


9:14 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Right, this conversation is losing coherence.

"There are major changes in longtail traffic" is not the equivalent of "Google is serving bad results".

"Longtail traffic loss coincides with increased gbot activity" is a legitimate datapoint, especially if it is observed without prejudice to cause and effect.

This thread is supposed to be about observations on SERP changes. As such, members posting about changes should not be interpretted as "complaining" but rather "contributing".

Of course, some contributions could be more helpful. "Me too", "I've lost traffic (no site data forthcoming)" and, yes, "SERPS are crap (no details provided)" are among my personal hates.

A more refined perception of the difference between "here's my raw data, interpret it for me" and "here's my meta-analysis, please critique" would also be welcome.

John Webster

9:42 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If you own or manage a site of a few hundred + pages. It looks like Google's changes are losing (probably temporarily) some of your pages from its index. If Google loses a lot of your pages, you must lose out in SE referrals particularly from long tail searches. The way Google works it is likely to be your deep pages that are culled.

Everything that people are reporting here has happened many times before. It happened about 12 months ago and our client's referrals were decimated, 12 months later they were at their highest ever. It is happening again now with Caffeine. I'm watching like a hawk, but I expect in 12 months time referrals will be higher than before even if I do nothing.

PS. I've been watching SEs since 94 - long before there was a Google.


10:05 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

for webmaster tools keyworld I am getting google webmaster tools and that has always been the case. Why not try google webmaster as a keyword? For me it is faster typing the address in the address bar and let google suggest the sites especially if I use them regularly.

Yep, I could do this, there are sevaral ways. I was just trying to give an example why stable results are wanted in some situations.


10:05 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@ Mentat EXACTLY

Google normally crawled some 50 00 000 to 80 00 000 pages on our site as per WMT

But during the last 3 days it has reached almost 200 000 000

And the interesting thing is ...the more it crawls...the less time its taking...


11:58 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Iv been smashed on longtail. Crawl rate has increased from 23,000 pages a day to 60,000 pages. Im also noticing no change in the time spent crawling.

Its seem that new sites with very fresh BackLinks (no PR links) are doing better than old authority websites on LongTail searches.


12:35 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

"And the interesting thing is ...the more it crawls...the less time its taking..."

Yes i have also observed this. My stats are showing larger amount of data per gbot hits now.


1:36 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Anyone else notice that some meta descriptions are being replaced by snippets? Not across the board, obviously, but I have a strong sense this is reducing CTR.


2:03 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

My oldest site is seeing a 65% increase in Google traffic over this time last year (it's seasonal, and my season is just starting) I attribute this mostly to the fact that I'm ranking pretty highly for generic one-word and two-word keywords that I probably shouldn't be (as I'm targeted only to Michigan) It's kind of interesting, because I've been tracking the one-word rankings in a spreadsheet for three or four years now, and up until this year it's really bounced around, but now pretty solidly top ten.

But one client ecommerce site with about 3000 pages has seen a pretty large drop. We're still up there for the main keywords and phrases, but a lot of product names have dropped.


2:57 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

@netmeg - i would say: product names == long tail - so we are really a larger group of ecommerce websites with exactly this problem!

for me it settled now at 17% average traffic loss...

spider activity has almost doubled - picking up 500k pages a day - nuts!

there is no sudden change on an average perspective. it is just 17% lower since the 28th of April.



3:13 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

My professional experience (well my paid experience anyway) is intra rather than inter net but I also run a couple of small internet sites on a personal basis.

I have noticed long tail searches suddenly appearing that weren't there before although numbers aren't big enough for statistical significance. It looks as if indexing has become more extensive changing the position on long tail searches.


3:26 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Pawas, it's hard to update pages when you don't know what the new "rules" are.

My trafic is down, but not the percentage of referals from Google, so I'm assuming it's seasonal. I've seen my site drop in ranking for some keywords, but I must be getting better rankings on others to offset that.

I'm just going to add more content, get more links, and do some AdWords (which I would do this time of year anyway). If I find that the rules have changed, and know what the new rules are, I'll change my site.

Pass the Dutchie

3:57 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One of our main site (established 7 year old site, original content, white hat, low bounce rate, constantly increasing traffic, lots of returning visitors etc.) has been hit for our major, highly competitive single KW. First we dropped from pos 5 a few weeks ago to page two. Almost every 6 hours the SERPs are changing for this term, competitor site are moving around slightly but ours is dropping a place every few days. Pos 1 remains unchanged.

Short and long tail have remained mostly unchanged.

Massive amount of spidering a few weeks ago and cache for our home page is now being updated daily as opposed to every 4-5 days. We made a change at 09:00 this morning and the cache showed the change two hours later.

Over the years we have run a very carefully managed link acquisition campaign which has shown some great results in Bing but has done almost nothing over the last 6 months in G. When I mean careful I mean text book Google guidelines with consistently 10-15 quality links per week (less than 1% overall inbound link count)

Other than that we have cleaned up the html, increased site speed from 67% to 85% (pagespeed) and continue to add quality text, blog posts etc.

It has been the most carefully guarded and targeted link campaign we have embarked on in my 10 year career.

So, John Webster I hope your theory is right or Google has made a significant algo change which is seeing stale, poorly designed sites with feeble content, some cloaking content (site in pos 1) outranking sites which provide so much more to the our target market.


5:10 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Google! Dude! What the hell?!

Getting way to much foreign traffic now! The visitors are filling in my contact form asking questions about whether the products are available in their country. Thank goodness for Babel or else I'd think it was a spam attack.

And when I visited one of my sites today the toolbar went off asking if I wanted to translate it from Dutch. On my admin page for another site ... which says "login" and "password" ... it asked me if I wanted to translate it from filipino!

Where's my UK traffic for my UK site on a UK IP address with a UK tld and totally in English?!?!


5:27 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)


Going back to your post on page 5, I agree....something seems to be broken or not working as intended. This just happened on Monday of this week.


5:58 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi guys,

Here is some information from one of my sites, just so you know I'm no SEO expert so forgive me if I don't give in-depth details.

Anyway, my site has been ranking pretty well for a single short keyword for around 2 years now, last time Google did any major changes I did drop a few places in the SERPS and traffic was dented a tad.

Though since the 20th of April things have been going mental, I was placed on 2nd page and traffic dropped loads. Though, I put this down to an Algo change by G and expected things to settle down within a few days.

On the 27th things went back to normal, in fact better, I was in 2nd place for my keyword and was getting good traffic again. In fact my long tail keywords was also getting better rankings and I was getting loads more traffic then normal.

Now on the 3rd of May it all went down hill again, traffic has almost vanished and I'm back on 2nd page again...

I'm getting the same results as some people here, I find that at times I get "Two" different search results on same PC. I made sure cache was clear, DNS was cleared and wasn't logged into any Google accounts...

Though latelly I'm not seeing the 2nd search result as much, hope this ain't the final version of Google!

To me it seems like they are testing something out, one minute its on, next it's off, then on etc...


6:33 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

garyl2k: welcome to WebmasterWorld and don't worry - SEO just became a game of even a wilder guessing that it was before MAYDAY :-)

The reports of heavy shifting over the last days since we started the thread keep coming in and since only a fraction of webmasters do post anything I suspect it to be a broader phenomenon than obvious.

I found the international problem internetheaven reported quiet interesting - yet that did not happen with me.

Something major has happened for 3+ words search phrases.

Google rolls out a new interface.

Caffeine update is somehow rolling out and the effects are slightly off in terms of announcement (23rd of April) and the effects we all see (roller coaster since 27th).

So after gathering all the infos I am currently more confused than before :->


6:46 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks prontifex, silly as it may seem I do kinder feel more at ease knowing it isn't just me feeling the effects.

Just to add, my site is a UK site and only needs UK traffic, going to go through data logs from host to see where traffic is coming from.

Also my main keyword is a 3 word keyword so that makes perfect sense, I have also noticed that some keywords produce Googles new interface, maybe another part of the change they are bringing out.


7:38 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Great (and long) thread!

On April 14th I lost about 60% of traffic on a Danish site - all of the loss was Google long tail. The Google traffic had been stable or slowly increasing for the last 2 years.

So I guess the good questions then are:

- Did I do something wrong so Google devaluated the site
- Is is temporary because of a Google update
- Is it because of a change in Google algorithm

Almost all inbound links are natural, so I rule out spammy links to be the cause.

The site has a high percentage of thin content pages, about 90% of the pages is company profiles with little more than a company name, address, phone and website address - all within a particular vertical. The titles are optimized for searches on company names, location and the vertical name - which worked fine for the past years and brought the long tail traffic.

The rest of the site has quality content on the pages - articles, unique company descriptions ect. But because of the high percentage of thin pages I'm not completely suprised if Google devaluated it. I would still like to know for which of the above reasons.

Another interesting thing is that I still get some long tail traffic, just less of it. Nearly all my refferers from Google are now from Google Maps. If I do a search for a company I used to rank for my site is burried down on page 3 or much further down. But if I click the result from local search a link to that companys page on my site is at top nearly every time.

I'm not sure my case is similar to others reported here - for example I have seen no changes in traffic up and down.

The sudden loss of specifically Google long tail on April 14th after a long stable run in Google is what I found similar to others.


8:22 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have identified a pattern with my niche site that dipped in traffic April 28th. My main KW is unchanged (serp) and my main long tail Kws that are on page 1 also remain unchanged. However my longtails that are on page 2 are fluctuating from page 2 to page 4 and beyond, not hourly fluctuation but by the day apparently.

Obviously I have lost traffic for those KWs - BUT I also lost traffic for very long phrases that come naturally without targeting. I thought it was over yesterday because I had one of my best days but around 8-9PM EST (last night) traffic again dipped and remains very low until this very minute. This disturbance is all on Google, maybe even some kind of automatic "traffic throttling." I have no idea.


8:28 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Does anyone else have a complete sitemap registered in webmaster tools?

I mentioned this back on the 1st (page 2 or 3 - my first post) however I thought I would provide an update, 5 days on webmaster tools continues to register 600k pages as listed from the sitemaps which is what I would expect this fluctuates up and down by 5k or so pages which again is what I would expect. In the past webmaster tools has always been incredibly accurate and up to date almost by the hour so I have no reason to belive this will change whatever is happening with the actual results - in what I belive is the short term.

The puzzling part is that a site: search back on the 1st revealed 295k pages (this is what the sitemap also reported in april) this has now droped to 273k but it is still well off what webmaster tools reports.


9:33 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

@Andylew yes we have a few sitemaps in google webmaster tools. What's funny is during these events we are seeing more indexing of the sitemaps as per their internal count (not 100% trusting of total index in WMT but it's one signal). We got maybe 5-10k more pages in Google. Even though we took a serious drop in this Mayday stuff.

I am believing that their is some new penalty going out to sites going for long tail who maybe thinner content on those longer pages.

Here is what I've observed:

1. We have a reputable blog which gets say 5k-10k views a day(it's down 10% only because we have readers and don't relay on GG traffic). Huge love from press (we've been in USA today) but today on a new article we dido not even come up on 1,2,3 page when search for the title. And it's a long tail title. Be it we've had 2000 visitors from Facebook so it's good content.

2. On our site pages with thinner content less or zero traffic. Thinner content meaning maybe 4-8 paragraphs of articles.

3. Our homepage which has a very distinct "unique" name saw a huge drop in it's own name coming from google.

4. An article written that is 1 year old that had over 5000 links doesn't even come up for it's name but all of the people who've linked to us (not all but some) do.

So we have a penalty. What did Google change in Mayday that could do this?

1. Thin content? Too much now draws a penalty? What is thin? 200 words?500?1000?

2. Duplicate content? Is Google hitting pages in such levels that they are begining to think certain websites are dupes of others. Say they are doing Mahalo's "linking out"

3.Site speed. Matt Cutts says it's just one signal but we've actually had to throttle Google down on one of our subdomains because our EC2 Server couldn't take it. Is Site Speed as big as an H1 tag?

4. Site Architecture. It's been said before google loves a flatter site but when dealing with larger sites with long tail data it's hard to bring thousands of pages within 1 or 2 jumps of homepage.

Cutts is back and I've seen 2 posts from him. None discussing this. So I guess it's not on his radar as of yet. Someone call him for me as ask what's up.


11:01 pm on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Has anyone seen rankings decline for newer sites compared to older sites?

We have a large number of websites and have seen rankings for sites younger than 90 days old receive a major ranking hit for the 3 word exact phrase we target on the home page of each site. Each site has its own unique 3 word exact phrase that we use throughout the meta tags and body content.


4:16 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

So google makes a major algo update, a major interface one, but where's Caffeine ? I still see the same old story with caffeine being there but not being given much live time.


5:19 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Site 3 = 15.9 M pages

Glad I'm not doing the updates on this one.


5:36 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I think its quite evident now by the recent huge crawl activity in the lesser time that Google has updated its file system i.e. Caffeine.

I guess every one of us has now confirmed an extraordinary crawl rate (and some also confirms the "less time" point).

The "two datasets" observation is nowhere to be found now, atleast for us all the data centers are now showing less or more same results except some normal fluctuation on 8 9 and 10 spots. I think it was due to the implementing the caffeine file system on data centers

Obviously Caffeine will (and it is) effect rankings and SERP in one way or other but the horse mouth definition of Caffeine update can be verified by this single factor of more crawl in less time and the change index size numbers. Lets refresh the original caffeine definition by official google webmaster central blog

"a next-generation architecture for Google's web search. It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions"

Some More from the interview matt gave to Mike McDonald of webpronews

"This infrastructure modification will lay the foundation for future indexing changes and will also allow for the expansion of website speed and size. Incidentally, it could even provide a stronger architecture for potential real-time and semantic efforts."

So i think you should not be in doubt anymore about whether caffeine is live or not. :)


6:04 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

The "two datasets" observation is nowhere to be found now, atleast for us all the data centers are now showing less or more same results except some normal fluctuation on 8 9 and 10 spots. I think it was due to the implementing the caffeine file system on data centers

Ummm, I have to disagree with you. I search using a DC tool using IPs and I get caffeine. But when I search google.com using several proxies in different areas I don't get caffeine in most cases. This is caffeine for me, [] Maybe I'm wrong though


8:12 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


can you tell me how can you identify a caffeine datasets. What is the specific difference between a normal dataset and a caffeine dataset,

All of us have seen caffeine and have posted our observation about it, but none of us has given any specific signals that ensures that you are getting caffeine.

Apart from ranking shuffle, there is no clear evidence.

Initially we are declaring the different google SERPs for same query and termed one as caffeine. Which is now appear to be (I reported earlier and many other members then) the TWO DATA SET Theory. Initially majority of us were claiming that one of this data set is caffeine but IMO this is something different and it was just happening cause of implementation of new file system to database.

So do we have some specific identifying parameters to declare a result as caffeine results :)

Let me start with :

1. Index Size is an identification of caffeine


8:26 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The results I'm seeing in the UK on both .co.uk and .com for the niches I follow just don't look right to me. For example there's one site that was given a -10 penalty a few weeks back that has moved back to its previous position. It looks to me like they have not applied some of the ranking factors and in particular manual penalties to these results.

My morning checks look different to the last few days, relatively minor shuffling. Perhaps they are adding back some of the ingredients they forgot.


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