SEO Tip #48: Can You Give Us an Update on Rankings for Long-tail Searches?

Matt Cutts: Fantastic question! A lot of webmasters have been talking about it so I’m glad I have a chance to address it.

This is something that Webmaster World called “MayDay” and it sort of happened April 28th through May 3rdish. That’s why they had been calling it MayDay. It is an algorithmic change and it does affect long tail searches more than head searches.

It is deliberate and it’s a quality change that’s been through all the normal quality launch committee, side-by-sides, making sure things look good from a quality perspective. It has nothing to do with caffeine, although Caffeine is proceeding apace. It’s completely independent or orthogonal of Caffeine.

It is an algorithm change and so there’s no manual stuff involved here. This is purely our algorithms thinking that some sites are a better match for some queries than some other sites and it’s not temporary.

This is something where we’re trying to assess the quality of sites. We’re trying to find the best sites that match up to long-tailed queries. It’s an algorithmic change that changes how we assess which sites are the best match for long-tailed keywords.

So if you’re affected by MayDay go back and ask yourself if you have the highest quality site. Are you showing up for the most relevant searches? What sort of thing can you do in terms of adding great content and making sure that people can consider you as an authority.

You want to be sure that you’re not just matching something that’s off-topic or that users won’t find all that useful. But the main thing to know is this is an algorithm change. It’s gone through the full process. We don’t expect this to be temporary. There was no sort of human judgment involved where we thought this site was good or that we thought this site was bad. Instead it is algorithmic.

It does affect long tailed searches more and after going through the entire evaluation we did decide that it was a quality win. So a few people have noticed it but not the entire world has noticed it.

Bear in mind that we make over four hundred changes per year in terms of actual quality changes where we’re tweaking or introducing or improving an algorithm. So this is one of those changes. It was a little more visible to some people who really attention to long tailed searches, but we do believe it’s a quality wind and we do expect it to continue going forward.

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About the Author

Andy Johnson

Andy Johnson has been on the Internet since the its dawn(ie his first computer program was recorded on cassette tape) and his first hard drive cost about as much his current MacBook. His first byline was in 1993 for a local newspaper rag he eventually helmed, and his last “real job” was at a computer start up which ended when it ended. Throughout it all he’s freelanced and blogged. Now he is mesmerized by Search Engine Optimization forever trying to “rise to the top” for the right reasons. He’s been married to his wife Julia for as long as he can remember and has two lovely, wonderful children. He looks forward to sharing the latest in the technical best for all the online entrepreneurs.