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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