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August 20, 2014

When Google Hits Your Web Content: Avoiding the eBay Dilemma

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Photo Credit: meneame comunicacions, sl via flickr

Remember the hubbub surrounding Google awhile back when they released Google Panda, the updated spam algorithm? They made some drastic changes that centered around sites creating excellent content and putting a stop to several things that could be considered spam. This hurt several online businesses right away, but many were waiting to see just how damaging this would be.

Some had faith it wouldn’t be that “destructive”, but now we see just what these changes have done to businesses. One of the biggest, most destructive effects was with the online bidding site giant, eBay which is set to lose no less than a whopping $200 million in revenue. What happened? Can eBay get out of it? And how can you avoid falling into the same pit that eBay fell into? Let’s explore each question.

What Happened to eBay?

eBay fell victim to Google Panda quite quickly. Initially it seemed like the impact to eBay might be temporary and that it might rebound. Fast-forward to now and you can see that since late May, eBay estimates that they have lost about $200 million in revenue. This is because the penalty they were slapped with has lowered their search engine ranks and kept visitors off their site. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly what Google’s problem with eBay’s SEO was, but it seems to have been quite serious.

One of the major things people are noticing is that this particular penalty is not one that is automatically sent out, ruling out a possible automated error by Google. This penalty was handed out by a human within Google as a manual penalty against eBay. This means that whatever eBay did, it was enough to get the human side of the search engine gods upset and that someone on eBay’s side must have been utilizing some outright spamming methods.

How Can They Get Out of It?

When eBay released their financial statement showing how much revenue they have possibly lost since May, they also released a few ways that they are planning to get themselves out of the hole. One of the main things the CFO said is that they will focus on changing their SEO tactics to fit those that Google says are fine. They are going to sit down and reevaluate everything they are doing and change them to get a higher ranking and boost their revenue back up.

What Can You Do to Avoid Falling into the Same Pit?

Now the question many have is what can they do to avoid falling into the same pit as eBay. We’ve decided to give you some tips to keep you out of that Google penalty pit and help you continue making great revenue.

Here are a few things you can do:

1. Make Sure Your SEO Strategy Matches Google’s Guidelines.

The most obvious thing you can do is make sure your SEO strategy matches Google’s guidelines. Take some time to read them over or seek out information that gives you the details on what you can and can’t write. Remember, these are guidelines you need to follow, not just suggestions. Following them will help your site rank, be seen by Google bots, and be seen by potential clients. Pay attention to Google updates by following industry leaders such as Search Engine Land or Moz. You will find that these sites keep you updated on most things that are happening in the land of Google and what will please or anger the Google gods. These leaders really do stay on top of things.

2. Avoid Common Black Hat SEO Tricks.

If you are participating in Black Hat SEO, you will find that you get penalized quickly, especially since Panda’s implementation. While you are most likely avoiding most Black Hat SEO, you might want to know that some of the more common black hat techniques people fall into are:

  • The ‘appearance of link spam’, actual link spam, and unintentional link spam.
  • Keyword stuffing content to help it rank better.
  • Using programs that might contain malware or computer viruses.
  • Using outdated SEO strategies. SEO is a constantly changing game that you need to keep abreast of.
  • Believing you know everything and not learning new SEO strategies or refusing to change your web content or how your site is run.
  • Reposting interesting articles either as intentional, or unintentional, plagiarism .

3. Craft Quality, Likeable Content.

Make sure you are writing quality material and that you write for a human audience. These are two incredibly important aspects of writing web content, not just for search engine ranking, but for people’s enjoyment as well.

One of the best ways to do this is to write as naturally as possible and implement a few choice keywords. This will really help your site rank and will convert your visitors to customers easily. This can also set you apart from your competition because the more you write quality, likeable content, the more likely it is that people will see you as an authority in your field.

Some speculate that one of the reasons eBay suffered a revenue loss was because the site content was too thin with no quality or substance. Try to avoid this with your website by offering content that is easy to read and that also provides excellent information.

In Closing

While the whole fiasco with eBay is quite unsettling, don’t let it worry you too much! If you practice proper SEO and provide quality information, you should be safe from Google. If, for whatever reason, you do one day get a warning from Google, ensure you make the changes as quickly as possible. In addition, remember that no one is really safe from Google, including Google. Just check out the five different times Google got in trouble with, well, Google.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.