How Google Updates Are Destroying Some Yahoo! Internet Retailers

By Jonathan Poston

Japanese destroyer in the Pacific.

Manning the incoming calls of an ecommerce company isn’t as boring as it might sound. Sure, there are a billion technical questions that must be answered, but there’s the counseling part of it too. Yes, you heard right. Counseling. Merchants ring in distraught, desperate for a solution to looming calamity, but in reality, many just need an ear. Some challenges don’t have easy answers. Take for instance how Google’s updates are devastating some internet retailers out there. It’s not all out war between Google and capitalistic America or anything strangely conspiratorial either. But there are casualties, and innocent ones at that.

In Google’s quest to distill content to the highest purity possible before serving it out to public search, the search giant has labeled duplicate content with the plague sticker. That’s not so bad for Google’s target market though. Consider searchers who are looking for news on say, new developments in the presidential race; do they really want a million results to populate with their query. No, they want the hot off the press original. And Google is giving it to them.But imagine what that means to AP press outlets who aggregate stories. And as a bi-product of Google’s heroic move to “save” searchers from recirculated “old” news, duplicate content on retail sites is being penalized too.

This simulated conversation demonstrates the seriousness of what’s happening:

Yahoo! Store merchant: I was making a living with my Yahoo! Store, but with the Google updates, I’m suddenly not being found. What is happening, this store is all I’ve got.

Ecommerce hotline: So, you just stopped getting traffic?

Yahoo! Store merchant: Yes. And I talked with the guy who was helping me with traffic, and he just told me to tell my past and current customers to keep buying from me. I can’t rely on that! I need new traffic. And now, the traffic I seem to be getting is from bots. I don’t know what’s wrong there.

Ecommerce hotline: Have you kept up with how Google’s updates affect your ecommerce business?

Yahoo! Store merchant: I’ve heard the Google updates penalize duplicate content, that’s my main problem. But I don’t have the margins to pay someone to create original content for all my products. I have 1500 of them, and the sale copy for each one of them comes from my supplier. I realize this is a huge problem and that all their merchants must be using the same copy, but what can I do!?

Ecommerce hotline: Unless the manufacturer can generate unique copy for each merchant, the only choice you have to avoid the Google penalties is to update each product with unique copy.

Yahoo! Store merchant: I just don’t see how this is going to work. It’s too labor intensive. I’ll try to change the first few lines, but my product copy is so technical, I wouldn’t know how to re-write it. Plus, there’s no guarantee that will bring my traffic back. Who knows what Google will decide next! It’s like they’ve done this so we’ll have to advertise or just not be found. I’ve heard advertisements are getting more top space now. What ever happened to: Do No Evil. Frustrated. Thanks for listening.

What are you doing to counter the duplicate content penalty? Have you felt Google’s destroyer’s wrath yet?

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