SEO

Google MayDay Update – A Closer Look At Impact

By now, most of us know about the big change Google performed this past month to the algorithm known as the “Mayday” update.  We know also that it directly affected deeper page content and long tail SEO.  Several people, including Brett Snyder over at SEER Interactive have come out with opinions on its impact on their sites, with mixed messages coming from across the industry as to whether there was a positive impact or a negative impact.  I took it even further though, and have studied the impact by comparing multiple months and year over year across four client sites involving over 24,000 pages of content, and 248,000 site visits that came to those sites via more than 69,000 keywoord phrases.

Don’t Be Fooled

Now before I go any further, I need to say that you may not know that I was a crime statistician a couple decades ago, who learned that you can make statistics prove anything you are seeking to prove.  There are several ways you can go about this including:

  • Manipulate the Numbers
  • Leave Out Critical Portions of Data
  • Include Otherwise Irrelevant Data
  • Use Marketing Spin
  • Baffle Your Audience With Bull$@*#

Other Factors to Consider

In addition to the intentional manipulation of statistical data, there’s the issue of other factors that must be considered when drawing conclusions about this, or any update we learn of.

What if Google made sixteen other changes around the same time frame, and DIDN’T tell us about those?  Given that they make hundreds of changes every year, that’s quite possible.

What if the change in visitor activity was even partially as a result of work that person performed the previous month and that work was just now bearing fruit?

What if any of these increases or decreases was as a result, at least partially, of someone’s competitors and the SEO (or lack thereof) on those competitor sites?

What if some of those changes was due to seasonal factors that nobody seems to be mentioning?

So as you read this article, and look at my statistics, just remember all of this.  Because at the end of the article I will offer some conclusions which speak to what we all need to focus on as a result of the Mayday change. …

One Additional note

Before I go over my data – if you are reading this article on the day it’s published, I may not be able to reply to comments right away, given that I’m scheduled to be up in Seattle for SMX Advanced.  But please – don’t let that stop you from commenting- I’d love to get your opinion on all of this.  And if you’re bold enough to draw conclusions about my own data, I’d be tickled pink!

Client #1

Client 1 is a retail client, with 100% of their sales coming through their online presence.  They’ve got roughly 3000 pages indexed at Google at any given time.

Mayday Study Client 1 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact

From April to May of this year, overall Google organic visits jumped at a higher rate than they did from April to May of last year while at the same time, the total number of keyword phrases used to find Client 1′s site rose as well, but at a much lower rate as compared to last year’s month over month change.

Sure, you might say that this means the MayDay update caused a drop in the growth of keyword phrases.  If you want to say that.  Yet the truth is that we work on this client’s site continually, month in and month out.  And it’s impossible to say that any of this growth or lack of comparative growth, was as a result of our work, the Google Mayday changes, or some other factor.  But at least we got that higher visitor count.  :-)

Client #2

Client 2 is a very popular eatery and entertainment night spot, with over 1000 pages indexed.

Mayday Study Client 2 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact

As you can see, year over year, site Google organic visitor activity drops off significantly between April and May.  In fact, this year’s drop is almost identical to last years drop in visits.  Yet something else to note is that the total number of phrases searched, while falling this year like they did last year, didn’t fall as far.  This tells me that more people were clicking through to the site relative to the total number of phrases searched.

Client 3

Client 3 is an online retailer with a whole lot of products – over 4600 pages total.

Mayday Study Client 3 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact

Client 3 saw a drop in Google organic visits while seeing more phrases searched in this year’s April to May comparison.  Isn’t THAT interesting?

Client 4

Client 4 is also a retailer – with the most pages of any site reviewed for this study.  Over 16,000 pages indexed at Google, as a matter of fact.

Mayday Study Client 4 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact

Sadly, as you can see by these statistics, even though Client 4 has infinitely more pages than any of the other sites in this study, they sure don’t act like it.  I mean – look at that Google organic search volume and compare the total number of pages on the site to total Google organic visits, and then go back and look at the 3 other clients in this article.  Just goes to show you – just because you have the most pages on your block, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get the most visits, let alone sales!

In any case, year over year changes were about the same for both visits and phrases used.  Except that last year from April to May there was a big DROP in visits and this year, from April to May there was a 7% increase.

Conclusions

I think it’s obvious from these numbers, that the Google Mayday update helped all four of these clients.  Just by looking at the year over year and month over month statistics proves that out.

Okay, no it doesn’t.  That claim is actually the lamest joke I think I have told all week.  Because like I said at the beginning of this article, there’s honestly no way to know.

And thus, I conclude that anyone who tells you they have anything resembling an “informed” opinion as to whether the Mayday update was good, or bad, is just puffing themselves up and pulling your chain.

Actions To Take Because of the Mayday Update

Here’s where I think we need to be – more unique content needs to be added to 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier pages.  Better linking needs to take place within the site itself that improves the importance of those pages from Google’s perspective.  Those pages need more inbound links going directly to them.  And more needs to be done through social media and other online authority building and brand identity confirmation perspectives.

Which is something you should have been doing (or telling your clients to do), for at least the past three years.  Because that’s how long I’ve been advocating those very things. And it’s what anyone with half a brain in our industry says as well.

So get to work, people!  And have a nice day.

 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors a month. A noted industry speaker, author and blogger, his posts are quite often as much controversial as they are thought provoking.
 Google MayDay Update   A Closer Look At Impact

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14 thoughts on “Google MayDay Update – A Closer Look At Impact

  1. Hey Alan –

    Great look into the Mayday update… However, I think your results are too narrow to really draw any conclusion at this point, I mean, many people are just seeing the effect of serp changes in June.

    While the great-update may have started in May, its still quite a bit too early to say what the effect will be.

    1. Mark,

      I seriously considered extending the review through June. And including total back-link count to each site in April of last year, May of last year, June of last year, April of this year, May of this year, and June of this year.

      But honestly – where does it stop? The only true way to get valid conclusions is to also make a chart of every single other thing that was done to each site in each month of both years – content changes for example – because if I change the quality of the content on my higher level pages, it's going to affect the way the lower level pages are treated by Google.

      And how many additional pages weren't just shown as being indexed by Google, but how many pages were in the sitemap.xml file in each month of each year. And how many pages actually existed, not in those sitemaps.

      And how many mentions did any of my brand identity or products were there in each month of each year.

      And what about site speed, now that that's a factor – heck we can't even compare that to last year's data, yet it's completely relevant this year.

      And what about competitor sites – how many competitor pages existed in each month of both years. And of those, how many had what changes from the long list of changes, because that is CRITICAL to this discussion. If my page #274 is in the 1st slot organically at the SERPs at 3PM today, and it's bumped down to the 2nd position organically due to even a TEMPORARY change from another competitor, that directly affects this whole thing.

      And oh yeah, now we have personalization to factor in on top of everything else.

      No, with all due respect, the fact is that claims regarding the Mayday update being the cause of people's increased or decreased traffic are hollow unless you can show me the ENTIRE picture.

      1. I get what you are saying Alan… ie: where does the research and comparison end.

        The search results are very skewed right now… and the google algo is responsible for that.

        Just search for: “search engine” The one used by more than 70% of the public is not even in the top spot! Authority is being devalued somehow.

        Online auctions – where is eBay?
        Webmaster Forums – where is WebmasterWorld?

        Something is BIGTIME amiss right now.

        Mark

      2. well it depends on what you mean by skewed. Is eBay optimized for the phrase “online auctions”? Is WebmasterWorld optimized for “Webmaster Forums”? And is Google optimized for “search engine”?

        Nope – they are not optimized for those phrases. So in that regard, there's nothing wrong with the algo at all.

        Not to imply that the algo isn't screwed. which it is. because Google's got a lot of crack addicts working there these days.

        But the core concept of how to properly optimize a site for a phrase still applies.

  2. Agree completely about onsite optimization… but Google has always claimed to want to give the exact results people are looking for, not the optimized result.

    When you think of a “search engine”, what do you think of? Google thinks it's Altavista.

    When you think of the “best search engine”, what do you think of? According to every authority who measures statistics, it's Google for sure… But Google thinks its Dogpile.

    I fully understand about optimization for this or that, but we have been guided for years into NOT optimizing for search, and doing everything for visitors. What Now?

    Mark

    1. I've always focused more on attainable goals such as long tail searches and page linking and site inter-connectivity linking for crawl purposes. We have a start up company with only a few months of web presence and have seen a significant increase in traffic for the month of May. I agree that this increase could be purely resulted from new backlinks, and content improvement “bearing fruit”, though I look at the whole issue of “Google Mayday” being beneficial to end users and large, content rich websites.

      In other words, I am not complaining. =o)

  3. From a sample of 4 sites these are some interesting stats but as you state in your initial provisos, there can be lots of other factors going on here and it's a roundabout way to get back to some basic SEO principles! All the same, thanks for sharing the stats.

  4. Alan, your examples aren't persuasive: if something doesn't touch four of middle-sized sites it isn't a proof that other (bigger) sites didn't lose out.

    I have worked for some (6) really big sites which had an awful drop of traffic (more than 30%) and lost lots of money in May. Believe me it's not an attempt to shift the blame on Google or something else.

    1. Adelante,

      Sorry for the delayed response – I was up in Seattle for SMX Advanced. The whole point of my article is that I'm not drawing any specific conclusion one way or the other. If you believe the drop was due to the May Day update, then that's your belief. Yet unless you perform a deep analysis there's honestly no way to know what caused the drop.

      If you've done a deep analysis, and the changes Google describes appear to then be the culprit, that's another matter. Except for the fact that I mentioned – Google makes hundreds of changes a year, and only tells us about 2, maybe 3. So how can we know?

      What I suggest the answer is goes back to the fundamentals of SEO best practices that have held true for years. This is not to be condescending. Believe me – if I were responsible for sites that saw a 30% or greater drop in traffic, I'd be quite upset. And I'd be working my tail off to do that deep analysis.

      I wish you the best in that process.

  5. “Which is something you should have been doing (or telling your clients to do), for at least the past three years. Because that’s how long I’ve been advocating those very things. And it’s what anyone with half a brain in our industry says as well.”

    Amen.

    1. David,

      I take it then that you're one of those among us who's been advocating these things all along, as compared to this implying you've at least got half a brain! :-)

  6. From one point of view Google gives us more opportunities, but from other point of view due to Google’s monopolisation of the internet it is less and less options for internet users, everybody needs to do what “Google saying” . Every year it is less and less freedom in the internet.

  7. Adelante,

    Sorry for the delayed response – I was up in Seattle for SMX Advanced. The whole point of my article is that I'm not drawing any specific conclusion one way or the other. If you believe the drop was due to the May Day update, then that's your belief. Yet unless you perform a deep analysis there's honestly no way to know what caused the drop.

    If you've done a deep analysis, and the changes Google describes appear to then be the culprit, that's another matter. Except for the fact that I mentioned – Google makes hundreds of changes a year, and only tells us about 2, maybe 3. So how can we know?

    What I suggest the answer is goes back to the fundamentals of SEO best practices that have held true for years. This is not to be condescending. Believe me – if I were responsible for sites that saw a 30% or greater drop in traffic, I'd be quite upset. And I'd be working my tail off to do that deep analysis.

    I wish you the best in that process.

  8. David,

    I take it then that you're one of those among us who's been advocating these things all along, as compared to this implying you've at least got half a brain! :-)