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by James Challis on 6th June 2014
Panda 4.0 has arrived. The update follows on the same theme of punishing websites with very little content, duplication or auto generated content. But what does actually mean to a business running an eCommerce website relying on search engines to supply them with customers and ultimately money?
There are several detailed reviews of how this change has impacted larger websites, such as this one from CognitiveSEO, but the key is to understand how to avoid the impact and help a website capitalise on the changes.
Panda was originally created in 2011 by Google to penalise websites that had low quality or thin content. These types of content had become a huge problem as they were being used by spammers that created barely readable articles purely to increase their rankings within the search engines. The update was very influential on English language organic search results although due to the initial scale there were initial problems where content that had been copied or scraped from other websites was able to rank above the original source.
Nowadays these updates are drip fed in the Algorithm so that the impact is less severe and is constantly ongoing. Panda 4.0 was release at the end of May 2014 and is a partial exception to this rule as there is growing evidence that this latest update has impacted a number of established websites.
The reason that these updates are important to everyone online is that they can essentially determine the difference between being found by new customers online or not. The update can even cause issues for businesses that have always stuck to Google’s guidelines. It is important to resolve the issues as soon as possible as traffic levels across a website can be brought down with only a small proportion of pages with poor quality or duplicate content.
The sites that appear to have been really hurt by Panda are primarily press release websites, such as PRWeb and PRLog. This fits in with the overall aim of Google to rank sites that provide useful and unique content above other websites.
Another type of site that has reportedly lost rankings are automated and template based websites. This is where eCommerce should be particularly concerned because many online stores selling products that are available elsewhere often use product descriptions from the manufacturer or supplier, and this creates a huge amount of duplication.
One major site that fits this mould is eBay and it has been claimed that the site lost a huge amount of search visibility over the last few weeks. It is possible that the site also received a manual penalty, however the overall indications from Panda 4.0 suggest that the site would have been negatively hit regardless.
Where there are losers…
Search Rankings are no different, where there is bad news for the well-known brands that have lost search visibility, it has opened up the search playing field for smaller more specialised businesses. The websites that seem to have really benefited from the latest Panda update include websites that target a specific topic or niche. These specialist authority sites are becoming increasingly important with the continual evolution of search engines and should be seen as an opportunity to grow using expert industry knowledge.
Unless you have access to a multimillion pound marketing budget to take on the global players of online shopping, it’s important to take the idea of “working smarter” to develop a digital marketing strategy.
Instead of trying to sell thousands of products from one website, it has become necessary to develop a digital outlet that can not only sell, but also educate users about a product. As well as increasing traffic from search engines, education also helps the user better understand the product being sold and has been shown to increase conversion rates.
A strong content plan can help turn generic product descriptions into unique and insightful information that users and search engines regard as valuable content and this can be achieved by creating semi-professional video demonstrations, personal insights and detailed reviews of the most profitable products on sale. Better content will also help drive brand mentions and content references from websites that are relevant to your industry.
Try to avoid using the manufacturer’s product description. If your CMS automatically creates multiple pages for each product, make sure you use canonical tags to indicate the primary source and if possible add a no-index tag to the head of each of the additional pages.
User engagement is now an important metric for gauging how useful the page has been to a user and is a quality indicator for search engines. You can encourage greater user engagement from visitors to a website by providing the opportunity for users to leave their own reviews and to share your unique content across social platforms using social buttons.
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