Last week, eBay.com lost significant ground in their rankings on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), and other SEO firms should take note.
Moz, a well-known search engine marketing firm, tracks which 10 domains have the most “real estate” in the top 10 search results. Dr. Peter J. Meyers at Moz reported that “over the course of about three days, eBay fell from #6 in our Big 10 to #25.” Typically, certain domains rise and fall, but only slightly.
This particular change is clearly out of place, historically speaking. eBay has been #6 in our Big 10 since March 1st, and prior to that primarily competed with Twitter.com for either the #6 or #7 place. The drop to #25 is very large.
What happened? Although no one but Google and eBay know for certain, many search engine optimization experts are postulating that eBay’s fall from Google’s good graces is do to the search engine’s updated algorithm, Panda 4.0. Others claim that certain eBay pages were knocked out of the SERPs by a “manual action” done by Google. After all, Panda 4.0 was rolled out months ago, and it applies to entire sites, not to specific pages.
Whatever the true cause, the lesson is simple: black hat SEO is bad news bears in Panda 4.0’s world.
1. Do not create doorway pages.
It wasn’t eBay’s home page that was removed from Google’s search engine results pages. It was their category pages — the pages that eBay had created specifically for search-engines — that were penalized. In fact, some of eBay’s category pages weren’t “real” category pages at all. When visitors clicked through to eBay’s doorway pages from a search engine results page, they were redirected to another page.
Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream, writes that eBay was optimizing as if it were still 2004. “I’m actually surprised that Google has turned a blind eye on this spam for so long,” he writes.
2. Do not have thin content.
eBay created hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of category pages on their website (accessible via their own internal search engine) in order to “trick” Google to send traffic their way. There was very little content, if any. Most likely, the pages were auto-generated.
What eBay missed was that Google sees those pages as spam. It’s just that simple. Google itself advises SEO firms to “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
The lack of content on the category pages on eBay.com probably tipped Google off to their black hat SEO tactics.
3. Do not misuse AdWords.
Last year, eBay complained that AdWords was not — and could not be — profitable for large, online retailers, but it seems that their poorly managed pay-per-click campaigns were the real culprit. They atrociously misused many of AdWords’ features, especially the Dynamic Keyword Insertion tool, which inserts the user’s search phrase into the text of the advertisement on the search engine results page.
This complete tom-foolery made them look dumb to searchers, and these irrelevant ads cost them lots of money.
It’s a bad day for eBay, but, in the end, their SEO nightmare might prove beneficial to the user. Google is working for less spam on the internet. The rest of us would be wise to heed the lesson.