Auction giant receives the ultimate slap in the face
The biggest story in the SEO and internet marketing world this week has to be the confirmation that Ebay did indeed receive a penalty from Google and has subsequently, seen a huge drop in ranks on the search engine giant’s pages. Say what? Yes – you read that right!
It’s been a crazy month on the SERPs and before making any firm announcements here at Rocket SEO, we wanted to ensure we got our facts straight before making such bold statements. To make matters even more confusing, this month has been unprecedented in the sheer number of Google algorithmic updates, most notably Panda v4.0 which has caused untold havoc right across the board so we weren’t entirely sure if this was causing all the confusion.
So when the news broke that Ebay had seen a major drop off in traffic of over 75% by the likes of SearchMetrics and RefuGeeks, everything else seemed to have pale into insignificance! And now we can confirm that they have received a penalty – but was is manual or algorithmic?
Mixed messages are circulating the internet
There’s a whole load of conspiracy theories, stories and unconfirmed reports circulating the SEO community that all have fairly plausible points of view about what actually happened but considering the timing of it and the nature of the drop; common sense points to manual over algorithmic. Here’s why:
The drop was a specific directory on the Ebay domain
The majority of pages that were removed from Google results were “doorway” pages which Google frowns upon as they are frequently created to gain search engine ranking and do not offer the user a better search experience. So in short, are deemed manipulative.
What surprises us more however, is why it took Google so long to discover them? Ebay has used doorway pages for nigh on years now yet the auction giant has dominated this area for decades. Seems like odd timing to suddenly penalise them only now.
Manual penalties are easier to fix!
Whatever your opinions on Google manual actions are and whether they are fair or not is one thing many in the SEO world cannot agree on. However, getting a manual action is by far easier to deal with than algorithmic.
If Google has specifically told you your site is out of compliance, you simply set things straight, fix your site and submit a reconsideration request. Algorithmic penalties are a major headache and are very hard to solve.
Ebay will no doubt have a substantial team of developers working around the clock to get these issues fixed and fast. I just wonder if their lawyers have Google on speed dial and will become involved soon too!
Alternative views get tongues wagging
There’s some very interesting theories as to why Google suddenly decided to slap Ebay with a penalty. Let’s face it, if their doorway pages were the only culprit then why on earth did it take Google’s web spam team so long to discover them? Doesn’t make sense as they are everywhere!
One commentator Brett Tabke, the founder of WebmasterWorld, believes something more sinister is at work.
After 14 solid years, Ebay suddenly ceased buying Google Adwords as it was deemed a complete failure and didn’t work. This decision will have subsequently caused a huge drop in earnings headed Google’s way so as punishment, Google may have hit them where it hurts too!
Tabke believes that he hasn’t “seen a more egregious case of Googles complete duplicity and lack of transparency in it’s search methods.” He goes on to state that he thinks “…it clearly sends a signal to others that if you want organic results, you have to “pay up” or get booted.”
Many cynics in the SEO world may agree and some even believe this practice does go on. But proving it is another thing entirely.
Wait for the recovery
One thing for certain is that this is not the last of the story. There’s no doubt that Ebay’s corporate owners will not be happy at this decision and it could be interesting to see where this all leads.
If the penalty is quickly lifted and traffic is barely affected then this storm in a teacup may just subside. But if it drags on, it could get ugly.
The gloves aren’t quite off yet but they may be soon!