Google Mayday Update: A Surgical Cut To Affiliate Long Tail Traffic?
A detailed look at the new Google MayDay Update and the fall-out for online affiliate marketers and the web. Has Google Changed The Whole BallGame?
Google Mayday Update: A Surgical Cut To Affiliate Long Tail Traffic?
For any full-time or part-time online affiliate marketer, this May will be remembered for another one of Google's drastic updates to the way it ranks web pages in its popular search engine index. Changes so drastic, for many marketers, May has officially replaced April as the cruelest month of the year, something only Google could do!
Actually Google has been working on this update for over a year, ever since they gave webmasters and marketers a little sampling of what changes were coming with the Caffeine Sandbox last summer. Google has said it didn't want to implement Caffeine before the Holidays and waited until this year to slowly drip the extra strength Caffeine into its databases, with April and May causing the most damage to online marketers and webmasters, as displayed by many popular threads in numerous marketing forums, such as the one at Webmasterworld.
Pinpointing the exact cause of this direct hit on affiliate traffic is a little more complex, especially if you're not familiar with the online marketing lingo. Long tail keyword traffic seems to be the running theme through most of the discussions of why affiliate marketers have been hit so hard with this latest update. This phrase refers to the longer string of search queries which people type into search engines to find what they're looking for on the web. It is also the phrases many full-time online marketers like myself have optimized their sites and marketing towards simply because achieving high rankings for these long tail keywords have proven very lucrative.
Online marketers have long since discovered searchers using long tail phrases are the ones who are in the right mind-set to buy. They are not browsing, they are usually searching for the actual brand name product to purchase. For example, a surfer searching for an Alienware Area-51 M15x Gaming Laptop probably has his or her mind made up to which type of laptop they want to buy.
We are talking about actual sales in the hundreds of millions here, where even the smallest online affiliate marketer by using long tail marketing, can rack up sales in the millions. By the time you have a steady flow of commissions, any savvy online marketer knows exactly the sources of where your money producing traffic is coming from and all roads lead to Google.That all changed with the Mayday update and although it is extremely hard to determine if this was a deliberate act on Google's part, all indications are pointing to a surgical cut to affiliate long tail traffic. Google has been fine-tuning and testing Caffeine since last summer, gradually checking it on a few databases to analyze the traffic. Caffeine has been gradually filtered in and Google's traffic and sales engineers must have known exactly the effect of cutting all this long tail traffic would have on affiliate sites and marketers.
The reasons for such cuts could run along two ways of thinking... once Google changes its Algorithm and ranking rules/filters, no one, including Google, can predict what results will eventually pop-up. They might be just as surprised as anyone at the fall-out from Caffeine.
The reason for such a change may just be a pure marketing move on Google's part - cut out all this organic affiliate traffic/income and then companies and affiliates would have to invest more in Google's paid Adwords program to replace this traffic. Too cynical you say, Google would never do such a thing? Maybe so, but what most people don't realize or fail to gather, is that Google is a business. And as a business, Google has to account for its actions and answer to its shareholders. Market share and earning a profit is the nature of the beast here, don't be blinded by all the countless good-well Google has built up with the general public. Business is business and the bottom line rules the day. Just look at how Google is scrambling to take on the combined threat of Bing/Yahoo with all the latest changes and added features to its SERPS interface.
There is a lot of talk on the issue of net neutrality these days, but we don't hear much about search engine neutrality. Are these ranking formulas truly neutral? Or are they biased towards big brand name companies who pay the biggest advertising revenues to the search engines? This argument doesn't really hold up when you consider Google is going out of its way to present both types of search results; one results with the shopping big-brand names sites and the other results with the smaller more information based sites. However, the question still remains, is Google now penalizing these pages more strongly with this latest Mayday update? Actually the general public would say affiliate marketing really doesn't have a place on the web and Google should be cutting out these affiliate links as a simple way of making the web more neutral and not geared in favor of those who want to make a few bucks.
Regardless, this is all rather pure speculation on my part, what online marketers want is a real understanding of why their long tail traffic is now ranked much lower. Google can very easily tell which are affiliate links and the big question are they lowering these pages in their search engines? You can only determine what's happening by examining your own sites' traffic... most of my sites' traffic is only down around 5% to 10%, but sales have taken a drastic nosedive because this traffic is largely made up of the long tail money producing keywords.
Then you also have to factor in all the recent changes to the Google interface in SERPS, it's totally different now with so many options that maybe organic search traffic have suffered or become less effective for marketers. Too many options does not a happy marketer make. You want a direct line from your long tail keyword phrase to your sales page, having several sideshow distractions is bad for business.
Online marketers, myself included, sometimes get so marred down in the little details of following every small change in traffic stats/sales, that they fail to grasp the bigger picture. On a more fundamental level, with the recent changes in HOW it displays its SERPS, Google could be making a play for the whole ballgame. We now have the added left column but more importantly, we have all the other numerous functions and features now on the first landing page for every search query that is made. These changes have in fact, made Google's results page more of the destination, rather than a transition page which was the usual function of a SERPS page in the past.
Google by these recent changes to its whole infrastructure has evolved from being a search engine to becoming the ultimate webmaster with billions of index or homepages - directly competing with every other webmaster on the web. Google search is no longer a transit point to another destination, it is the destination. Surfers will want to stay on this first page and use it as their base to investigate the topic at hand. It is functioning more like a Wikipedia page than a search page. Could be just me, but this is my reading of the new features and functions presented by Google. That first page SERPs is not only extremely useful, but it is also very attractive with images, videos and overall design.
The Key To This Strategy Will Be The Time Spent On Google"
Most people believe Google has made these countless changes because of the added competition from the Bing Yahoo upcoming union. However, Google's main competition in the future will be social media sites like FaceBook... this new design and function could be Google's answer on how to meet this competition. Make your SERPS a home base for every keyword phrase that is searched for on the web, including the lucrative long tail variety. Brillant strategy. You beat your competition by virtually building a billion websites to fend off any takers.
Of course, that includes the small online affiliate marketer who now has to compete with Google as a webmaster, rather than a search engine. Now that's a very formidable opponent if there ever was one. The fallout will be long lasting and could fundamentally change the web as we now know it. That big picture is still forming and we will have to see all the consequences for ourselves as they unfold. Hopefully, there will still be a place for the online affiliate marketer but don't bet the farm on it.....
All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author, who is a full-time online affiliate marketer. He runs numerous niche sites, including two highly ranked sites on Internet Marketing Tools. free marketing courses Titus Hoskins Copyright 2010.
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