High rankings in Google search results are the prize most webmasters seek, but Google is constantly making changes to their ranking algorithm – roughly one change per day! Now Google has confirmed the “Mayday” update with Matt Cutts saying at Google I/O that “this is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”

Ex-Googler Vanessa Fox, who spoke on a panel with current Googler Matt Cutts at Google I/O last week says Google told her that it was a rankings change, as opposed to a crawling/indexing change. This, she says, “seems to imply that sites getting less traffic still have their pages indexed, but some of those pages are no longer ranking as highly as before.”

“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,” says Fox. “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.”

Experienced webmasters know that they can’t rely on Google rankings alone to drive traffic. This is why social media opportunities presented by networks like Facebook and Twitter have become so attractive. The way people search and obtain information is becoming more and more diversified, not only spread out around different applications, but also within search engines themselves.

For example, Google recently rolled out its big SERP redesign, which gives users a great deal more options for filtering their results. The importance of ranking in a completely natural, organic search has become greatly diluted over time. Of course it’s nice to rank high, but it’s getting harder to rely on as well as less critical for discovery.

These observations and admissions regarding the Mayday update confirm one thing for sure – it’s certainly beneficial to create unique product descriptions for items you sell on your site if you’re an ecommerce provider. Simply using a manufacturer’s generic description could be causing you to lose traffic to your product pages. And whether or not you’re selling products, make sure that your content is first relevant and then comprehensively addresses the search terms you’re expecting to rank for – a good idea whether or not you’ve been impacted by Google’s Mayday Update!

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