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How to save your ecommerce traffic from Google's MayDay update

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Sometime around April 28 - May 3 2010, Google introduced an update to its algorithm that the folks over at Webmaster World deemed, "Mayday." While Google makes over 400 tweaks/updates to its algorithm every year, this one got more attention than most because it focused heavily (although not exclusively) on long tail keyphrases.

In a YouTube video, Googler Matt Cutts, outlines what Mayday is all about specifically naming that it is:

  • A permanent, algorithmic change designed to enhance the quality of search results.
  • Targeted strongly toward long tail searches.
  • Not related to Caffeine (which was an indexing update, not a rankings update).
  • Looking for pages that are the best match to long-tail queries (meaning quality pages that are relevant and offer great content).

Who takes the hit?

There are two theories on who the Mayday update might affect most.

Vanessa Fox, in an article for Search Engine Land, gathered some additional information directly from Google. In her report, Vanessa states, "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. 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)."

That's true. I agree that ecommerce sites would probably have seen drastic drops in long tail traffic to their product pages. In addition, affiliate marketers that target long tail niche terms might also suffer significant rankings losses.

5 tips for regaining your long tail rankings

Have you seen a shift since Mayday went into affect? Wondering what to do to regain your traffic? Give Google what it wants: relevancy and quality.

  1. Ditch the duplicate content. Stop using canned (manufacturer-provided) product descriptions and opt for high quality, enticing copy on your product pages.
  2. Add originality to your product pages with consumer reviews or tips for using the products.
  3. Offer recommended items or other upsells/cross-sells on product pages.
  4. Double-check long tail keyphrases against your content to ensure relevancy.
  5. Include social media elements on your page. Ways to share on Twitter, Facebook and more boost links back to your product pages. Showing a feed of Twitter (or other social media feedback) on the page can also boost original content and encourage additional links.

From everything I've read, and from results I've seen from my own clients, it appears Google is trying hard to ditch pages that use duplicated, regurgitated copy. Instead, they seem to be favoring those that offer original, relevant content with higher rankings and more traffic.

If your site is suffering from the effects of Mayday, my new ebook, Ecommerce Copywriting: Proven Strategies for Boosting Sales & Search Rankings can help. In it, you'll learn effective copywriting techniques as well as powerful strategies for planning and developing site content that's user and Google-approved.

Karon Thackston's addition to the Wordtracker Masterclass Series: Ecommerce Copywriting is now available at

Ecommerce Copywriting"

About Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words which provides SEO & web copywriting services plus professional copywriting training.

Copy not getting results? Want to learn to write natural-sounding SEO copy yourself? Check out Karon's complete copywriting course, keyword optimization guide, and other books today.

If you prefer, contact Marketing Words for a web copywriting quote.