The Google Mayday update caused quite a stir in the affiliate community. Why? Because it was said by webmasters to be, and was then later confirmed by Google to be, most heavily impacting long tail traffic.

Many affiliate marketers running sites generated by affiliate datafeeds (that traditionally drew decent traffic from long tail searches) saw a heavy negative impact on their search traffic from Google as a result.

We (myself and the other panelists speaking on the “SEO Vets Take All Comers” panel) were asked about the Mayday update at SMX Advanced in Seattle a few weeks ago.

Bruce Clay was quick to respond that he thought Mayday targeted “casual long tail” and that he saw many sites optimized for long tail very deliberately see an increase in search traffic as a result of the Mayday update. The pages he saw most affected by the update were those with “high bounce rates and low conversions”. Todd Friesen very quickly – and correctly – quipped that high bounce rates and low conversions were a problem regardless of search engine algorithms.

Vanessa Fox referred to the story she did for Search Engine Land when the question came up, where she stated:

“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. The individual product pages are unlikely to attract external links and the majority of the content may be imported from a manufacturer database. Of course, as with any change that results in a traffic hit for some sites, other sites experience the opposite. 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).”

As Vanessa mentioned, a lot of ecommerce sites saw adverse effects… but so did a lot of affiliate sites built with merchant datafeeds.

A few weeks after the update, Google engineer Matt Cutts discussed the Mayday update in a video:

If you’d like to save three minutes of your life (<3 you Matt!) let me sum up the video with… it’s a permanent change, it’s algorithmic, it affects mainly long tail searches, and it’s not being rolled back. To prosper in this new update you need a high quality site that is relevant to the search term at hand, have good content on the page, and to have users deem your page useful for the query. AKA “Create quality content and Google will reward you.” (Holy deja vu Batman!)

But for affiliates running sites that are created primarily from the content of a datafeed, this might be easier said than done. If you’re a datafeed affiliate site effected by Mayday, there are a few things I might suggest you look into. But be aware that it is early in the change and most of what *anyone* says on the topic of Mayday at the moment (myself included) is going to be advised based on some lightly tested theories.

Change up your affiliate datafeed

Smart affiliate marketers have long been differentiating the content of the datafeeds provided by merchants and adding value to them, but if you’re a bit behind the times you can:

  • Add more unique content to the “out of the box” datafeed you’re given by merchants
  • Switch up the order of the items that your feed spits out in the product information pages
  • Switch up the URL structure the feed generates
  • Change up the image names
  • Run your affiliate links through redirects
  • Add the ability for users to leave user generated content that is relevant and useful

If someone had said this about a year before the Mayday update, more affiliate sites might have been more prepared for this most recent algorithmic update. Oh… wait… I DID. ;-)

Invest more time in your internal linking structure

One of the theories on Mayday echoed by some of the “SEO Vets” panelists at SMX Advanced – myself included – is that the more clicks it takes a user to reach an individual product page, the less weight the authority of the domain as a whole may be spreading to it post Mayday. (We’re not talking URL paths here folks, but rather click paths.)

This means you need to make sure your most important pages and product categories are well linked within your site. A lot of sites relying solely on a “trickle down effect” of authoritative internal pagerank (real pagerank – not toolbar pagerank) to rank long tail product pages might need to change up their strategy for ranking “deep product pages” if they’ve seen a ranking loss.

Dig deeper with external links

It seems like no matter what your woes with Google, more external links are always an option for a cure (or at least a really kick ass Band-aid). Good SEO folk have long been focusing on deep linking whenever possible to make category pages stronger. If you haven’t yet succumbed to that trend, now’s probably the time to start if you’ve been effected by Mayday.

Those three suggestions should give any affiliate datafeed site being hit by Mayday a good start. I have several more lightly tested theories on Mayday, but a girl has gotta keep some things to herself. ;-)

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