If you've been paying attention to your website traffic, you might have noticed a significant dip in the number of visitors coming to your website by searching longtail keywords. (Longtail keywords are search terms that have more than 3 words in the phrase. "Marketing" is a keyword. "Indianapolis Small Business Marketing Consultant" is a longtail keyword.)
Google has recently announced an algorithm change that went into affect at the beginning of May. According to Google's Matt Cutts, the change is more noticeable with longtail keywords than "regular" keywords and it is expected to be a permanent change. He also mentioned that the change has nothing to do with Caffeine.
According to Matt, the algorithm change was brought about because Google engineers wanted a better assessment of the quality of websites being presented in the SERPs; although he was adamant that it is strictly an algorithm change and does not involve any human review of individual websites.
How Does This Affect You?
First, the important thing to point out is that the new algorithm affects mostly longtail keywords. This is significant because searchers using longtail phrases are typically closer to the end of their buying cycle. That means they're more ready to make a purchase. If you're seeing a big loss of traffic from longtail searchers, there's also a good chance you're seeing a loss of sales.
On the other hand, I know several webmasters who have experienced a reduction in bounce rate with the new algorithm, since the SERPs are sending only the most relevant traffic to their sites. So, apparently, the new algorithms are presenting a better user experience, which is what Google is after in the long run.
What Can You Do About It?
First, rest assured that websites are not being hand-picked to get a better Google SERP position. It's not necessary to be the cousin of Google CEO Eric Schmidt to rank well with the new Google algorithm.
The next thing to remember is that Google does not release the details of their algorithm changes, so it's never as easy as saying "do this, this, and this and your site will rank well." But we can read between the lines and watch our own traffic logs in order to figure out what Google is looking for.
First, Google is after an enhanced user experience - and to Google, the user is the web searcher, not the webmaster. The most important thing you can do to provide a great user experience is to have lots of unique, authoritative content on your site. (The best way to add lots of content is with a blog.)
Some tips that other webmasters have noticed include:
• If your site includes a lot of affiliate links, you might try reducing to only one or two links per page.
• If you're a distributor for another product, be sure that you don't simply copy and paste the product descriptions that you receive from the manufacturers. Google is looking for unique content, and if there are several distributor sites with the exact same product descriptions, there's no guarantee that yours is the site that will rank well.
• If you're selling affiliate products, the same suggestion applies. Be sure to write your own sales copy and provide additional, unique information.
• Don't spend too much time trying to stuff your keywords into your URL. If it works naturally, that's fine; but it appears as if this particular SEO technique has gone the way of the keyword meta tag.
• Make sure you site has plenty of high quality, unique content. Unique content is the key. If you're simply republishing other people's work, chances are you'll see a significant loss of traffic.
And if you did get hit by the algorithm changes, don't let it get you down. Several very high-profile websites have noticed a significant decrease in search traffic, so at least you're in good company. Remember, Google makes over 400 changes to their algorithms every year, and most of them go virtually unnoticed.