Google’s most recent Panda update, known as Panda 4.0, rolled out on May 20, causing many retailers to wonder how their listings would be affected by the SEO algorithm. Introduced in 2011 and updated periodically, the algorithm is meant to filter low-quality content from showing up on Google’s top organic search results pages.
As intended, Panda 4.0 brought increased quality to search results. There has been some speculation that eBay may be affected by this update due to its use of “doorway pages,” or pages designed to rank high but are perhaps thin in content.
We decided to take a closer look to determine the real impact to eBay. To demonstrate how Panda affects eBay listings, we ran a test, focusing on consumer electronic goods.
How It Worked
Say you’re searching for buy cheap used iphones. Ninety days ago, eBay had positions four and five locked down with these two URLs:
http://www.ebay.com/bhp/used-iphone-4 (stuffed for keywords iphone and used)
http://www.ebay.com/bhp/cheap-iphone (stuffed for keyword cheap)
These pages are great examples of doorway/category pages with thin content. Today, they and thousands of other pages like them are gone from the Google search results. But not to worry: These eBay pages were replaced with new pages, which lost an average rank of 3.88 places overall. Most “double” listings (pages from the same site that rank high for the same keywords) were lost as well, reducing page dominance.
EBay pages are still showing up for buy cheap used iphones — just now in position six. This ranked eBay page is a content-heavy buying guide. The new twist is that this content isn’t completely controlled by eBay staff, as doorway pages were. EBay buying guides can be authored by eBay or eBay registered users. From an SEO perspective, they function much like an About.com page — meaning that they have lots of educational content about the search query topic. Many of the pages created by sellers are quite useful, which is a bonus for both retailers and shoppers.
Here are examples buying guides that show up now on the Google results page:
http://www.ebay.com/gds/how-to-buy-a-used-iphone-/10000000177629476/g.html (authored by eBay)
http://www.ebay.com/gds/Buying-an-used-iPhone-/10000000178230148/g.html (authored by an eBay seller)
The disappearing act repeats itself for any doorway page within the /bhp/ directory:
Sellers and Shoppers Are the Winners
The good news is that while we’re seeing the doorway pages disappear from rankings, they’re being replaced by higher quality pages that provide a better shopping experience and better highlight sellers’ listings.
For example, pages like http://www.ebay.com/bhp/used-iphone-4 (which is “stuffed,” or smattered, with the keywords iphone and used) were replaced by new, higher quality shopping pages such as http://www.ebay.com/sch/cell-phones-smartphones-/9355/i.html.
Allow me to get a little technical for a moment. The primary difference between these two pages is that the page that is now preferred by the Panda 4.0 algorithm has the following characteristics:
1. Adherence to eBay’s “natural” architecture, rather than a manual configuration of the page content and its navigation
2. Freshness: Because this is a link to a dynamic search, the listings featured are constantly refreshing as some listings end and new ones appear
3. Scoring user intent via direct keywords (e.g., top rated cell phone) as well as inferred keywords (e.g., top rated — and cell phone is inferred)
4. No keyword stuffing
5. Uses URL rewrite for dynamic search pages (URL rewrites are the manual renaming, or “translating” of URLs into simpler and more memorable names for an end user)
For eBay as an advertiser, a minor drop in ranking is less of a concern because the newly ranked pages provide a better experience for shoppers and sellers.
How Popular Are You?
Category pages listed in http://popular.ebay.com/ created most of the new increases in eBay rankings. Any new category added to this human-edited Yahoo-style directory did very well in the update. Many of the //popular.ebay.com/ rankings replaced user-generated eBay “Collections” pages:
In short, we see the Panda update as a positive one for retailers. Though it does change which eBay pages appear higher in search rankings, eBay listings are still showing up. What’s more, the pages that are showing up are listings that are more relevant to both retailers and shoppers.
Note: The keyword sample we used:
[used iphones, buy used android phones, buy used blackberry, buy used cell phones, buy used galaxy s ii, Buy used iphones, buy used smartphones, cheap used android phones, cheap used blackberry, cheap used cell phones, cheap used iphones, cheap used smartphones, refurbished att phones, refurbished verizon phones, review used android phones, review used galaxy s ii, review used iphones, review used verizon phones, Used Android Cell Phone, used android phone, used att phone, used blackberry, used cell phones, used galaxy s ii, used iphones, used mobile phones, used smartphones, used verizon cell phones, used verizon mobile phone, used verizon phone]
For more details about our test and how we set it up, please email us at email@example.com.
Blog post by Tansy Obryant, ChannelAdvisor SEO strategist.