Google confirms: Algorithm change disrupts traffic to product pages

Some large e-commerce sites with product pages created from manufacturer’s databases are seeing less traffic to those pages.

Google’s spokesman for page rankings has confirmed that the company made a major, permanent change seeking to return “higher quality” pages for product searches. Website managers who make their income from Google search results traffic don’t necessarily agree with quality of Google’s changes.

What Google seems to have done, according to Search Engine Land writer Vanessa Fox, is change the ranking of pages that seem to be auto-produced from databases, and don’t have unique additional content such as user reviews. (Update: Fox writes in the comments below this story: “Rather, I said this was a change to the types of pages that rank well for long tail queries. I simply used an e-commerce site with that type of structure as an example of a type of page that would generally receive long tail traffic that might no longer be considered “high quality” enough to rank well.”)

At Google’s I/O conference for developers last week, search results spokesperson Matt Cutts told Fox that Google, which makes hundreds of changes per year to its results ranking formulas, had made a very major and permanent change that should bring “higher quality” content to “long tail” searches — specifically, searches for unpopular products that don’t have lots of original Web content created for them.

Website managers who share tips at Webmaster World dubbed the May 1st change “MayDay,” a pun on an old radio distress call term used by ship and airplane pilots. “Traffic dropped 50% in a few days,” one early respondent wrote.

However, the changes haven’t affected all Webmaster World community members the same. For some, traffic went up. What matters is that some sites have seen a sudden, serious drop in Google-referred traffic, which means a similar drop in sales that will affect their businesses’ profitability. Google says that this change is permanent. Many e-commerce sites will need to scramble to find ways to regain Google’s favor.

[Homepage photo: faungg]