Google’s Latest Update Leaves Online Retailers Scrambling

In early May, Google™ made a major algorithm update to its search engine with the goal of making ‘long-tailed’ results—phrases that contain three or more keywords—more useful. For example, a Google search for ‘Widget Model 554’ is a long-tailed search. Unfortunately, the change has adversely impacted online retailer’s standings in the search giant’s results pages. Consequently, there has been a great deal of outrage over this algorithmic update particularly from online retailers that have seen their traffic and online revenues drop sharply.

    Vanessa Fox, a former Google employee, had this to say: “This change seems to have primarily impacted very large sites with “item” pages that don’t have many individual links into them. These pages might be several clicks from the home page and may not have substantial unique and value-added content on them.” Many ecommerce sites have this structure.

      Matt Cutts, ofGoogleGoogle’s Web Spam team, said that site owners who saw their traffic drop need to keep adding great content and make sure people see your site as an authority.

        With thousands of online retailers seeing fewer search engine rankings for their product pages, many retailers are wondering what can be done to regain these positions and recapture lost revenues.

          Optimize Product Pages

          Online retailers often face common problems when trying to get their product pages to rank well in the search engines. One key challenge is with images and content that are exactly like those provided by the manufacturer. One of the core reasons Google made this algorithmic update is to prevent this type of duplicate content from being indexed. For example, when you search for ‘Widget Model 554’ and every search result yields the exact same content from multiple retail sites, there is little value to the online shopper. Since using manufacturer-supplied catalog content is a standard practice amongst merchants for many reasons; it could take months to manually rewrite each product description for potentially thousands of catalog pages. However, by not taking the time to add value to the content, your search results will suffer. So how can these challenges be addressed? Start with proper page optimization:

          • Write unique keyword-rich TITLE tags for every product.
          • Ensure your product page URLs are search engine friendly and contain the product name.
          • Rewrite the product information provided to you by the manufacturer; for example, further expand on the products features and/benefits.
          • Allow your customers to write reviews on the products they purchase from you. Let your customers create unique content for you on each product page!
          • Add a unique and detailed expert reviews to each of your popular products.

            Adding value to your product pages can be a very time consuming task; however, taking the time to do it right will result in higher search engine rankings and more satisfied customers.

              Employ an Effective Link Building Strategy

              Google stated that they will factor in links from other sites even more heavily as a key area in the algorithm update. Since product pages, due to their nature, generally don’t have many links from other sites to them, online retailers need to build back links to these pages This involves developing new content containing the embedded links to your pages making sure the content gets posted to other sites across the web. For example, you can create the following types of content containing the links back to your site:

              • Regularly scheduled press releases and announcements about new products
              • Articles about your products, such as what differentiates them from competing products or general overview articles
              • Squidoo™, Google Knol™, or a HubPages™ pages about each of the brands or products you carry.

                You can then send this content to bloggers, article distribution sites, trade associations or post them on your company blog. You can also try some of these additional link building strategies:

                  • If you have a large customer base, consider developing a widget or badge customers can put on their blog or site which features a product wish list or registry. Go to your most popular competitor sites and see where they are acquiring their back links from. There may be specialty sites in your niche you can leverage.

                    There are many more ways you can generate quality links to your site’s category and product pages, just spend some time going over the sites within your vertical, and you will begin generating lists of potential sources.

                      Indeed, keeping up with Google’s latest algorithmic updates can be overwhelming for many online merchants. To help avoid your online store dropping off in the search results, the general rule of thumb is to develop unique, valuable site content. In doing so, we can stop chasing every algorithmic update and begin focusing on our core business and its customers. But first you must make sure both visitors and the search engines see your site as an authority within your vertical.

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                      1 Comment

                      • James Lerch says:

                        I would also add that many retail sites, product pages are often buried deep within the site architecture. Product pages should be accessed within two or three clicks from your sites homepage. Anything deeper will decrease the chance that these pages will rank well or even get indexed. If the pages in your online storefront are more than a few clicks from the home page, you should give serious consideration to developing a new navigational structure for your site.

                        If your ecommerce solution allows you to enable breadcrumb navigation, turn it on. This increases the number of internal links throughout your site and can also help your site rank higher if it contains links with keywords in the anchor text.

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