Google’s Panda 4.1: It’s Not Your Ranking – Your Impressions Are Dropping

September 26, 2014

So your SEO rankings are fine, but your impressions have been dropping in advance of Panda 4.1. With the release of Google’s updated search engine algorithm today, some people will notice a drop in impressions. Metaphorically speaking, the opportunity to be part of the “organic auction” and receive impressions is governed by User behaviour Ranking Signals. Most prominently, these signals include click-through rate, bounce rate, time on page, interaction with the page and social shares of the webpage.

To help correct for falling organic impressions, follow the suggestions below, which are geared for mid to large online retailers with more than 50 products.

Improve Your Click-Through Rate

Your organic SERP listing is your 24/7 billboard that turns searchers into shoppers. Let’s improve the listing below to maximize it for one of fictional company FishingAdvisor’s most popular search queries: “pflueger fly fishing rods 8′ starter kit.” The search query drives searchers to a product page that offers an 8′ Pflueger fly-fishing rod starter kit for beginning anglers.

On the SERP, the listing looks like this:


Here’s what we’d recommend to improve the listing:

1. Title: First, we’re going to fix the title of the listing to more closely match this popular search query. It’s great for SEO, but it’s also just a better user experience if your listing title matches the searcher query. The title comes directly from your title tag. You can locate your title tag in the HTML of your webpage by searching for“<title>”in the code.


I’m going to leave off FishingAdvisor, the company name. It’s unlikely that people will shop based on brand name at this point in the buying cycle (given this very specific search query). Plus, the brand name is already included in the domain name in green. There’s no reason to use up this valuable SEO real estate with something that already ranks well – the domain name “FishingAdvisor.”

2. Seller Rating: Include your Google Seller Rating, because your online store is already rated in Google Product Search. If you have three or more stars, and a minimum of five reviews, Google will include it in the SERP. I have marked up this information in the HTML using Microdata Schema. With Schema, you can promote other items such as offer, in stock/out of stock and brand in the organic SERP.


3. Description: The description used in the SERP listing is pulled from the meta-description tag. This is much like Google AdWords ad copy. Right now, the listing is pulled straight from the on-page description and doesn’t advertise the value proposition well. “Starter kit for anglers just getting into fly fishing. Pflueger. … Rod Length. 8’….” Let’s change that!


Reduce Bounce Rate

If people arrive on a webpage that appropriately answers their search query, they will likely stay. To reduce bounce rate, it helps to provide a clean, orderly design. Since this is incredibly subjective, below are some design elements to keep in mind:

Message: Get right to the point. Leverage the help of a merchandiser, designer, copywriter and editor to create a pointed and concise message. Creating smart product pages is similar to creating the front page of a newspaper – it takes a team to decide what makes the cut. Give people in-depth information that’s easy to read and digest. Provide ways to interact with the page. For example, play a video, share a link, roll over to enlarge an image. Avoid pop-ups and pop-unders.

  • Layout: Create a predictable rhythm to the page so users know there are more sections below the fold. Provide a decisive end to the page. Use concise, same-size content blocks and image blocks. Keep elements on the page evenly spaced, aligned and justified. Completely avoid a highly paginated series of pages, as it’s unlikely that users will click through them. Give users the option to open and close text blocks with a “view more” option. Leave white space between page elements. Standardize font, font size and color using a style sheet. Don’t use inline styling to draw attention to specific page elements.
  • Handle Images: Kill the hero image in emails. Remove large masthead images from your webpages. Mobile users hate these. Make images mobile-friendly using image scaling, just like text blocks provide the option to hide the image entirely.
  • Fix Errors: Redirect your 404 error pages. Never allow a 404 error sit on your site for longer than 24 hours. Sure, you’re adding and removing products at lighting speed, but when you remove a product, take the extra 30 seconds to redirect the page in the content management product page editor. On most platforms, it’s as easy as checking a check box that says, “Redirect This Page.” Then fill in the provided text field with the URL the shopper should be redirected to. Do not redirect everything to the homepage.

No matter how hard you try to avoid 404 errors, they will occur. To make them more friendly, customize your 404 error page so that it’s a great user experience.

  • Go Fast: If you sell products online, your site should be lighting fast on every device. To increase page load time:
  •     Avoid long pages
  •     Avoid pagination
  •     Minimize the number of templates and style sheets you use
  •     Parallelize the load of CSS and JS files or add images to a CDN. Keep third-party content below the 600-pixel mark.

Consider Social Interactions

When a shopper plays a YouTube video embedded on your site, that’s a one-to-one relationship between YouTube and your site. Google likes and measures this type of interaction and uses entities to measure how your site is used and shared. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm also measures the common co-occurrence of vocabulary between your site and entities that point to your site.

Next Steps

As you correct these issues, you should see an improvement in impressions over the course of 60 to 90 days (maybe sooner). In the meantime, to find out about how ChannelAdvisor can help you strengthen your SEO strategy, take a look at our SEO one-pager here.