Google’s May Day Update

After much debate about it by SEOs on forums like Webmasterworld, Google’s Matt Cutts has finally gone on record about what is being dubbed their “MayDay” search algorithm update. In a nutshell, this update affects results for long tail queries – in other words, those search phrases that have  four, five or more words in them. For these queries, Google is ranking “higher quality” sites (or pages) for those queries – in other words, pages that have unique content on them and great inbound links. The results are that many websites that were receiving long tail traffic to pages that weren’t particularly high quality are now suffering.

So what’s a webmaster to do?

Search Engine Land’s Vanessa Fox suggests that you look at the pages ranking highly for long tail phrases now and see if you can emulate what they’re doing. She also makes a really valid point that with Google making around 550 changes to its algorithm in 2009, its a bad use of your time to be reactive to every change. I agree. The best long term strategy is to make sure you’re providing what Google is looking for overall for its users – i.e. relevant, useful, on-topic pages that contain great content.

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How to write in plain English

Writing simple web copy doesn’t mean writing web copy for stupid people. One of my favourite resources for explaining why and how this is so is the Plain English Campaign’s downloadable pdf guide, “How to write in plain English“. The document puts this principle across beautifully with explanations and examples around the following guidelines :

  • Keep your sentences short
  • Prefer active verbs
  • Use ‘you’ and ‘we’
  • Use words that are appropriate for the reader
  • Don’t be afraid to give instructions

If you’re writing marketing copy about yourself or your business, the ten minutes it will take to read this guide will be ridiculously worthwhile. I reread it once a month at least and never get sick of it!