Google Content Farmer – Wreaking Havoc on Retailers

Retailers and the Panda Filter

When you want fresh arugula, do you look for crispy and colorful or stringy and wilted? Google feels the same way when it comes to content. It wants to serve you the freshest, crispiest content, not the has-been stuff.

Code Name Panda?On February 24, Google did a little housecleaning in the produce aisle. In an effort to do a better job serving up what people actually want, they released a new algorithm (affectionately called “Panda” by in-house developers). The effects were immediate.

According to Google, more than 10% of North American Internet traffic was intimately affected. Here’s Google’s story:

“We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.”

I applaud Google for taking swift action to serve its customers better. Bad writing is bad writing – whether it’s online or in a newspaper. Trouble is, some retailers are getting caught doing what they assumed was right…

How Google’s new filter is affecting retailers

Retailers are beginning to understand that to be competitive in today’s marketplace, they need good quality content that describes their product line-ups in detail to attract local consumers. Where better to get that content than from the manufacturers?

As communications director for a mattress manufacturer, I often received requests to copy our content. And it’s understandable. Retailers need images, descriptions and specs to fill their websites, which is a necessary but expensive cost of doing business. Manufacturers should supply that digital collateral just as they supply the POP (point of purchase) materials in-store.

In a perfect world, right?

GoogleIf you’ve been using duplicate content on your site from your manufacturers, it’s time to pay attention to Google Content Farmer. Look closely at your Google analytics. Fluctuations in traffic are normal, but if your organic traffic took a nose dive on or around February 24, it’s likely you have a problem. Then look closer at the pages affected. Are you seeing a decline unilaterally across your entire site or in certain product categories?

Once you’ve isolated the problem, it’s time to analyze your SEO strategy and create a tactical plan to reclaim your rankings. An SEO strategist can help you map out a strategy and if needed, write content. There’s no shortcut around this problem unfortunately, but the good news is that swift action can put you back on Google’s radar.

While working with a findability specialist will help, demanding that manufacturers step up to the plate with digital support is a good idea too. 

  • Strategic directionAsk for keywords. While you shouldn’t copy manufacturers’ content, their keywords will give provide a strong foundation for more localized keyword research.
  • Get meta descriptions from manufacturers. Again, we’re looking for the foundation here that you can build on to make your site more findable by local searchers.
  • Be cognizant of truth in advertising. You are legally responsible for all content on your site and without due diligence misrepresenting products features can have legal ramifications.
  • Consider adding a blog. There’s nothing Google loves more than serving fresh content in searches. Then update your blog once a week with authoritative advice (and your keywords). Note: keywords alone won’t do it – the content has to be informative, engaging and well written.
  • Get into social media. Talk to bloggers and micro-bloggers in your area and get in with your local influencers.

Need more information on Google’s Content/Farmer Panda update? SearchEngineLand.com has an indepth story, including an interview with Matt Cutts, Google’s Chief Spam Hunter.

Being found online translates into walk in traffic in stores – and that’s something you can take to the bank.

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