Google’s new algorithm “Panda”, designed to weed out “content farms” from its search results, is also wrecking plenty of small businesses who rely on search to make sales, the WSJ reports.
The Journal details several small businesses who sell goods online that have seen drops in traffic of 20, 40 or 60% since the new algorithm, and corresponding losses in revenue.
Part of the issue, it seems, is that many of these sites don’t use original content but product descriptions from the manufacturers like many other sites, so they’re being flagged as not having original content. And of course while some sites have gone down, others have gone up, although they mostly seem to be big businesses like eBay, Walmart.com and Buy.com.
What’s interesting is how they are responding. While some of them are doubling down on SEO, with one company laying off staff to hire search consultants and writers to produce original content, others are once-burned-twice-shy and are focusing on diversifying away from Google.
This is actually the right move: search is only one way to market a business online. Facebook and social media referral to commerce sites is growing like gangbusters, and email marketing still remains a very powerful tool.
But it portends a threat to Google. Google directs most of the traffic on the internet, and traffic is money. When Google was dominant, it could shrug off those who got burned by an algorithm change because, what could they do? As social media becomes a source of traffic as powerful as search, businesses will turn to that and Google’s relative importance will diminish.
Of course Facebook isn’t more or less benign than Google, and can also crush your business if you rely on it too much, but the point is that we’re moving to a universe where Google, instead of being the dominant, towering force of the internet, will simply be one among several power brokers along with Facebook and perhaps Twitter.
This in turn explains why Google and its new CEO Larry Page are so fanatical about coming from behind in social. It actually matters.