Posted on June 04, 2014
Panda 4.0 and eBay: What Happened?
Google's most recent Panda update, launched on May 20, has caused many retailers to worry that the algorithm will seriously impact their listings. The update is designed to bring increased quality to search results, penalizing sites with numerous pages that are weak on content. For example, eBay is known to use "doorway pages" that are designed to rank high for a specific retail search term, but are thin on actual content. For example, let's say that you are searching online to buy a cheap used iPhone. eBay has numerous pages, such as "http://www.ebay.com/bhp/cheap-iphone" stuffed with the word cheap. On that page, you can see that the word "cheap" is prominently featured in nearly every sentence and link. This type of keyword stuffing is exactly what Google hates – and what Panda 4.0 was designed to correct. A few weeks ago, this page would have been at the top of a "cheap iPhone" Google search. Today, thanks to Panda 4.0, these pages are all gone.
eBay & AdWords: A Case Study in What NOT to Do
Panda 4.0 slamming eBay is not the first time that the consumer-to-consumer marketplace has run afoul of Google. Last year, eBay also published a paper announcing that branded keyword ads have little to no short term benefits for a company the size of eBay. In essence, eBay was arguing that AdWords will never work for a company the size of eBay, and that paid search in general is only marginally beneficial. However, eBay's failure to make paid search work may have had nothing to do with AdWords itself and everything to do eBay's team that was managing the campaigns. For example, eBay's egregious misuse of dynamic keyword insertion meant that any and all phrases – including phrases like "severed heads" or "vomit" could be dynamically inserted into AdWords, producing ads such as "New & used severed heads. Check out the deals now! www.ebay.com". Clearly such ads are hardly beneficial for eBay and a waste of their AdWords advertising dollars.
Panda 4.0: What Your Business Needs to Know
First released in mid-2011, Google's "Panda" algorithm was created specifically to weed out low-quality sites and content farms. When it was first released, Panda affected approximately 12 percent of all search queries. Refreshed an estimated 25 times in the last three years, many SEO experts have come to accept Panda as a constant source of aggravation. Payday, which was first launched last summer, is unrelated to either Panda or Penguin. Payday, named after so-called "Payday Loan" sites, specifically targets spammy queries, including payday loan and pornography queries. If this combination of algorithm updates could affect a giant like eBay, what could it do to your website?
The answer: it depends. Many of eBay's pages that suffered the biggest hit were duplicate pages anyways, which consequently reduced page dominance. And even the "cheap iPhone" example we discussed above did not end up taking a massive hit; it simply fell from being ranked fourth to being ranked sixth. On average, most eBay pages lost about 3.88 places. But again, many of these pages were duplicates, so the exact loss in ranking is actually less. The good news is that while the doorway pages are falling from the rankings, quality pages made by sellers and shoppers are rising. This reflects Google's commitment o honoring quality and improving the overall shopping experience so that it better highlight's seller listings. This is a win for smaller businesses, consumers and personal sellers.
Here's what your business needs to do in order to be in compliance with the Panda 4.0 update:
#1: No keyword stuffing; instead, score on user intent via direct keywords (e.g., top rated phone) as well as inferred keyword terms (e.g., top rated phone; the term 'cell' is inferred)
#2: Be fresh – pages linked to dynamic search are those with listings that are constantly refreshed, rather than stale sites.
#3: Use URL rewrites for dynamic search; in this case, the URL will be manually renamed to something more memorable and relevant for the end user.
#4: Don't use doorway pages. Again, eBay's reliance on doorway pages was the main problem here. And now that doorway pages are essentially worthless, there's no reason for your website to rely on this strategy.
Bottom line: As long as your company plays by the rules, Panda 4.0 is actually good for small businesses and consumers.
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