Google regularly updates its algorithms. It tweaks them continuously (approximately 400 changes per year), but occasionally it UPDATES them and this can cause serious changes in search engine rankings. You may lose your coveted number one ranking that generates hundreds or thousands of pounds a month. You may fall off the listings entirely. You may suddenly see a surge in traffic (actually, I can’t remember ever having seen that reported!)
Google’s Mayday update appears to have targeted specific issues within the rankings, and one of those is long tail terms. Long tail terms are 3 or more keywords used in a search that are “uncommon” and less competitive than the top ranking major keywords such as “mortgage”, “SEO”, “insurance” etc. A long tail term for each of the above might be “flat rate interest only mortgage”, “small business diy seo” or “compensation claim motorbike accident”
If you want to see what Matt Cutts has to say, watch his video.
What this means to your website?
If you have been focussing on long tail terms and getting quick wins because you have found niche terms that no-one seemed to have optimised their sites or pages for, then you may be in for a shock.
Why? Correct me if I’m wrong, but what Google appear to have done is to have looked at results for long tail terms and said, “Hang on, why are they listing in the top 10? How have they got in? No competition huh? Surely someone knows more about this subject than that off topic page/content? Let’s look….”
What we are seeing, or so it seems, is an endeavour by the Googlemeister to get ever more relevant, and one of the means for doing this is to look at pages individually rather than as part of a sitewise whole. So, you may have a single page on your site that is the utmost authority on “fat penguins eat less fish, discuss” (a common exam question and your theories result from your evidence collected during a Polar trip) but your site is actually about holidays in Cumbria and things to day on a day out, including fishing.
In the old days, you would have struggled to rank because of your site’s seeming (ir)relevance to the topic. But the Mayday update appears to allow you to list highly FOR THAT PAGE and that long tail term.
If you are a large corporate with a grandiose website with thousands of pages that has been picking up long tail terms because of rankings for other terms, authority, and historic activity, you may find yourself gazumped by the little guy who really knows his stuff on that long tail term.
However, you look at it, we are back at the age old truth.
“Without unique content, your website is nothing”.