Google launched the Panda algorithm in February of 2011, targeting so-called content farms. Content farms are large sites containing articles written by multiple authors and optimized for search engine results. Farm revenue comes from click-through ads.
Overall, content farms offer little to readers. Writing quality tends to be poor, of low word count and often duplicates other sources. Panda dealt such sites a serious blow, reducing traffic in many cases by more than 60 percent.
How Panda Affects Ecommerce
Unfortunately, ecommerce sites share many of the elements of content farms. A commerce site tends to have multiple pages, one page for each product. Once you factor in size, color and other customer choices, it’s possible to have multiple pages for the same product.
A product page focuses on images and typically has a low word count. Additionally, many retailers copy and paste product descriptions from manufacturer’s sites.
More than one SEO company quickly realized–with a sick feeling, I’m sure–Panda would mistake ecommerce sites for content farms, resulting in sudden drops in traffic and profit losses.
Responding to Panda
You can’t argue with Google–it’s their sandbox. If you want to play, you have to play by their rules, even when they kick over your sandcastle. Your only course of action is to make your ecommerce site as Panda-friendly as possible.
Adding Unique Content and Word Count
Product pages may need rewriting for higher word counts. This raises a few problems. Writing 400 plus words of unique content on a toothbrush or paper napkins is a copywriter’s nightmare. Multiply the problem by every page on your site and you’re left with a Herculean task.
You have several options. First, if you copied and pasted a manufacturer’s description, re-write it. Even if you can only manage a 150-word product description, at least it’s a unique description, and less likely to arouse the Panda’s wrath.
Give site visitors the opportunity to write reviews directly on the comment page. Reviews add word count to the page, and Google sees them as relevant content.
Here’s a common Panda trap. A product may come in different shapes, sizes and colors. Many retailers create a different page for each option. For instance, retailers selling a toothbrush with pink, green, blue, orange and red color options may create a different page for each color option.
While each page may have a different picture of the toothbrush, the product description and content will be essentially the same. Therefore, while site visitors see a site designed to help them make the best purchasing decisions, all Panda sees is duplicate content.
Panda no like duplicate content. Panda smash. Raarrrgh!
Sorry about that. Sometimes dealing with Google feels like tiptoeing around the Incredible Hulk. Anyway, the point is multiple pages for the same product don’t sit well with Google. Instead, give consumers the ability to choose product options from pull-down menus or at checkout, so you can collapse multiple product pages into a single page.
One last suggestion: Do you have product pages that never get visited? If a product hasn’t sold for over twelve months, remove it from the website. All it’s doing is increasing your risk of Panda penalties.