When Google talks, the
rest of the Web has no
choice but to listen.
While the Farmer Update in late February
was primarily intended to disrupt the SEO
tactics of content farms, nearly 12 percent
of all Google search queries in the U.S.
were affected by the changes to the ranking
algorithm. At the rate of about half
a billion U.S. searches per day, that’s a significant amount
of traffic at stake for countless online businesses — including
Google’s changes demand that every online business reassess
its own content — and merchants should step to the head of the
line. Many e-commerce sites have seen their rankings slip since
the update, and not necessarily because they were knowingly
practicing shady SEO tactics.
In fact, the Farmer Update will force merchants to start implementing
some of our favorite e-commerce strategies; such as
social media engagement, user-generated reviews and video. The
goal is to create original content that has the greatest practical use
for online consumers and, by doing so, ensure that they can easily
find your business and your products on Google.
Here are the steps to take:
Audit your content
A bigger task for some than others, but it will maximize the benefits
when it comes to search rankings. Many merchants who
thought they were “in the clear” upon learning about the update
were surprised to see that their rankings dropped anyway. The
cause in most cases was poorly crafted or unoriginal content
camping out on pages somewhere on their sites.
It is important to review all of the existing content from
recent blog posts to long-forgotten product descriptions and
clean up or remove anything that has errors, is copied from
another site or both. The Farmer Update was designed to reward
content that benefits users and to penalize that which is
poorly produced or found elsewhere on the Web, so eliminate
all that applies.
On the flip side, you may have already produced content that
is so clean and original that others have copied it from your site,
which may also have a negative effect on your search rankings.
A good way to investigate this during your audit is to use Copy-
Scape, a URL-finder that will track down any instances of your
pages appearing elsewhere on the Web.
Check your links
This is a good time to remind you that nobody said the
process would be easy, but it is vitally important. Your audit may
prove that your own content is up to par, but the search rankings
your e-commerce site receives from Google will also rely heavily
on the quality of your links.
These may number in the hundreds, thousands or even tens
of thousands for many retailers, but linking to poor content
will hurt your rankings and ultimately your business. A good
resource to start with is the data from Searchmetrics (see chart on
page 8) or SISTRIX (http://bit.ly/h8eNlT), which provides helpful
statistics and analysis of which sites were impacted the most
by the Farmer Update.
The data also indicates what sites in a niche or category have
benefitted the most from the algorithm update, making them
good targets for building better links as you move forward. The
goal is to eliminate or avoid links to websites and content that
does not offer significant value to your visitors, and to add links
to those resources that do provide value.
Both sites mentioned above report that shopping indexes
TheFind and MerchantCircle were among the top 25 losers calculated
from traffic on keywords, ranking and clickthrough rates
immediately following the update. One of the biggest hurdles
specifically for merchants will be the duplication of product data
feeds appearing all over the Web, which is why it is so essential
to produce great content whenever and wherever possible.
Produce great content
So, what makes for great content in Google’s eyes?
1) Quality: Avoid misspellings, factual errors and outdated information.
2) Originality: Don’t copy what users can find elsewhere without
adding some value.
3) Authoritativeness: Try to lend some expertise.
4) Presentation: Make it easy to consume, visually pleasing and
engaging for users.
5) Value: The sum of the first four parts should equal content
that your website visitors will find useful and want to share.
Fortunately, there are some guidelines that e-commerce
professionals can follow to produce great content. The success
of your business is most likely driven by your product, so stick
to high-quality, original and authoritative content about your
product or niche. It should provide value for your visitors and be
presented in an uncomplicated but engaging way.
The process should involve finely crafted blog posts about
new releases and the latest news from your industry, and give
users the opportunity to add comments and share with friends.
It should also include unique, accurate and highly detailed descriptions
of every product in your inventory, presented in such
a way that it stands out from the crowd.
Merchants should also take full advantage of social media
channels and deploy user-generated ratings and reviews of their
businesses and products. Creative implementation of instructional
product videos and customer testimonials should also be
part of the content package.
To reap the greatest rewards from the Farmer Update, e-commerce
retailers’ new content strategy should include not some
but all of these essential elements moving forward.
About the Author: Linc Wonham is the Associate Editor at Website Magazine.
A 20-year veteran of the publishing industry, he has covered
business and technology topics for every medium and edited
numerous best-selling books.