Google’s latest update to its search engine ranking algorithm, dubbed “Panda 4.0,” has stripped eBay of up to 80% of its best search results, according to Larry Kim, CEO of search marketing company Wordstream.
At the same time, eBay has been Google’s second-biggest customer for its paid shopping “product listing ads” (PLAs). Retailers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on those ads, according to search marketing companies.
Thus eBay is likely to be steamed at Google right now: It’s being punished as if it were a spam website even though it’s Google’s single biggest PLA brand client, and comes second only to a company that bundles other advertisers’ buys together.
Previously, eBay had pretty good “organic” search ranking. If you searched for any product that could be bought or sold, an eBay page was likely on the first page of results — that’s prime real estate for online retailers, and lifeblood for auction sites like eBay.
Kim made the calculation by searching for common terms that used to produce good search results for eBay pages. He noted that 80% of the time eBay’s pages no longer made the first Google results page. (Generally, almost nobody looks on the second or third pages of Google results.)
A similar result was found by Peter Meyers who writes for the Moz Blog. eBay’s share of top 10 Google rankings across of a range of search results basically just collapsed in the past couple of days:
Kim says this is all eBay’s fault. The company previously employed two tactics to gain traction inside Google. First, it used an automated process that inserted whatever word a person was searching for into an ad. That produced ridiculous results like this, Kim says:
“eBay’s asleep-at-the-switch AdWords management style not only made them look stupid to searchers — those irrelevant ads also cost a brand a ton of money. Their failure to implement even the most basic of paid search best practices, like using negative keywords so you’re not appearing in queries for vomit, made their research completely unreliable,” Kim says.
Second, eBay had very thin landing pages for search results, Kim says. Searchers landing on an eBay page would often find virtually no content on it other than links to buy the thing they were searching for. Google’s entire algorithm is devoted to finding quality sites with lots of useful content. You can see Google’s official explanation of its Panda reforms here.
How serious is this for eBay? Hard to tell. It involves hundreds of thousands of pages carrying all manner of obscurata. But search consultant Rishi Lakhani points out that eBay isn’t even getting decent action for hot, high-value searches, such as “iphone 5 cases.” “This is a heavy search term keyword, so you can assume its loss from the top 10 could significantly impact traffic and sales,” he says.
Google declined comment when reached by Business Insider; we did not immediately hear back from eBay.