May 16, 2011, 4:31 PM

An e-retailer digs out from a Google update

Google’s Panda update crushed traffic to OneWayFurniture.com, but the e-retailer rebounds.

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Traffic to OneWayFurniture.com’s web site plunged by two-thirds after Google launched its Panda algorithm update in late February. The furniture e-retailer regrouped, revamped its natural search strategies and is now restoring its referral traffic.

The Panda update put more emphasis on the quality of a web page—and that applies both to the quality of pages linking to a retailer’s web site and the retailer’s own pages. Google estimated that the algorithm change could impact 12% of all Google searches. OneWayFurniture.com was one of the unluckier firms. “Suddenly all the old things that were working stopped,” says Mitch Lieberman, founder and CEO of OneWayFurniture.com. “Traffic fell off a cliff.” OneWayFurniture.com is No. 433 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Reports Lieberman received from his link-building vendor showed that the Google algorithm had readjusted the e-retailer’s rankings because Google gave low ratings to the sites that linked to the e-retailer, and also downgraded OneWayFurniture.com product pages that used manufacturer-supplied descriptions and featured little original content.

Lieberman fired the firm he was using to acquire inbound links, and replaced it with another one, though he declines to name either company. He also hired four copywriters to write original product descriptions that are friendly to search engines. For example, a bar stool that previously used a manufacturer-supplied bullet list of details as its product description now has a five-sentence description that details how it can complement a bar set-up, links to bar accessories and sets the tone by mentioning alcoholic beverages, all of which makes it more SEO-friendly, Lieberman says.  “We decided to change it all up,” he says. “What we’re seeing now is what is good for customers and what they see on the site is also good for Google.”

OneWayFurniture.com is also slimming down content that causes pages to load more slowly because this also affects how Google interprets the quality of a web page. “We’re focused on the basics, the structure of the site and on doing things that are not going to affect us negatively,” Lieberman says.

Nearly three months after the Panda update, traffic isn’t back to where it was before the update, but Lieberman says the site is slowly climbing back up in search result rankings. “It’s been extremely challenging, but exciting, too,” Lieberman says. “Even in a downturn like this, it is exciting to see the effects of what you are doing to get you back to where you were.”

Sreeram Ramachandran, senior software engineer at Google, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “Do your web pages need a new fitness regimen?

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