Penguin 2.0/4 Updates: Does it affect eCommerce?

I’m sure you have all heard by now, Google launched it’s 4th Penguin update, Penguin 2.0 on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The statement made by Matt Cutts of Google on his blog is very clear in terms of what the update is intended to do. In very simple terms, continue to eliminate black hat SEO and webspam.

At a first glance, Search Engine Land examined the data below (Collected by Search Metrics) to identify who the losers of the update were.

As you can see, a majority of the sites are all content, community and media based, mainly being video game and adult sites. When you look back at the first update Google did for Penguin, the idea was to go after negative SEO practices. This update seems to be quite similar only digging deeper into your website to identify spam.

Some of the things that are being addressed in the latest update are:

Advertorials

In short, advertorials will not be accepted as a form of content marketing. Matt Cutts discusses on his blog some of things to expect in the next few months, and advertorials, or paying for an editorial spot in a blog or on a website to increase page flow will be addressed.

“There is nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow page rank. And there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure, so that users realize that something is paid and not organic or editorial”
– Matt Cutts

To sum up this statement, Google’s crawlers will basically ignore advertorials that were sneakily flowing page rank.

How does this differentiate from Advertising on Google’s Search and Display Network?

In that quote, Matt says there should be clarity that the content is a paid form of advertising. You see that banner ads in Google’s Display Network are identified as “Ad Choices” with the notable blue icon, and that text ads on the search engine results page are also called “Sponsored Links”

For anyone using AdSense, there is no problem with display ads as they are identified as ads and is conspicuous as to what the content is.

Link Spam

Come on, if you are still attempting to link spam you should be ashamed of yourself. Clearly this is still a problem, or Google is just fine tuning its algorithm to further address this. After the first Penguin update, plenty of link directories and ranking sites such as BuidMyRank.com were taken down.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop leaving comments or ignore guest blogging.

How does this affect my eCommerce site?

Regardless of your set up, most eCommerce websites face similar challenges when it comes to SEO. After reviewing our clients analytics, I am happy to say that these updates did not have much of an affect on their rankings and organic traffic. As long as you are avoiding doing any old school tricks to boost your site ranking, you should not have been affected.

The challenge eCommerce sites face is that it works differently then a static content based informational page. Behind the scenes of what the front end of the site looks like is an eCommerce platform that stores data such as pricing, inventory, product images, marketing banners etc… That’s a lot of content and even more data, plus on top of that you may be featuring products on your home page, in a category page, a sale page, a clearance sections, once again, etc, etc, etc. Keep in mind your comment sections on your product page for reviews, the target of link spamming. That is a lot of potential duplicate content which we all know, search engines do not like and some open areas for spam.

To ensure the health of your website, and that you are properly being indexed without any penalties, make sure you stay on top of the following things:

– 401 Redirects (for site experience)
– Meta Titles and Descriptions
– Site Protection (SSL Certificates)
– URL Rewrites
– Canonical URL’s (To reduce duplicate content)
– On page links direct users to proper landing page.
– Submit SiteMap to Google for indexing

If you can piece this simple puzzle together, you should set up your website so that Search Engines can access and crawl it without encountering too many errors. The point of the update is to eliminate negative link building, spammy tactics that have been going on for so long.

If you are still budgeting for paid advertising and are one of those people who are investing into advertorials, just stop with that and go back to using traditional online marketing channels such as PPC, Displays and Affiliates. Google’s advertising policy outlines exactly what is acceptable and what is not on their network. For other channels such as Affiliates, there are agencies who specialize in their respected fields of marketing and abide by strict rules for online marketing. In the end, focus on the user and don’t compete on rankings right out of the gate. This stuff takes time, but if you stay focused on your shopping experience, site quality, ad quality for paid ads, you will begin to see results in the long haul!