February 16, 2012, 9:31 AM

IRWD 2012: Content gains in importance following a Google change

Developing a content strategy became a high priority at OneWayFurniture.com.

Lead Photo

Mitchell Lieberman

Feb. 24, 2011, is a date Mitchell Lieberman, CEO of OneWayFurniture.com, remembers well. It’s the date Google updated its search algorithm to place more importance on original site content, and it marks the genesis of a new content strategy for the e-retailer.

For Lieberman, speaking this week at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability 2012 conference in Orlando, FL, the Google tweak resulted in a significant drop in search traffic. “They said it was a small algorithm update affecting a very small percentage,” Lieberman says. “However, e-commerce seems to be disproportionately affected.” The Google update meant poor quality content could drive down the rankings of all pages of a web site, he notes.

Dubbed Panda, the changes affected nearly 12% of searches, Google says, and pushed sites that the search engine considers higher quality closer to the top of search results.

His response was to develop a content strategy that ultimately resulted in a 31.04% increase in the conversion rate at OneWayFurniture.com, Lieberman says. He then outlined the steps necessary to improve site content in Google’s eyes.

The first step is to start with a site assessment or audit. One problem to look for is if many of a site’s best-selling products use manufacturer-supplied descriptions, Lieberman says.

That’s important because Google post-Panda is looking for original content. “For e-commerce sites this means avoid using manufacturer-provided product descriptions,” Lieberman says. If many sites describe a product the same way, Google might label some as site scrapers, which could lower their placement in search results, he says. “You need unique, compelling product descriptions and real information,” he adds.

Once the original content is loaded to the site, he next suggests putting controls in place to ensure that content is not submitted to shopping portals, affiliate sites, Amazon.com or other sites, so that Google identifies the e-retailer’s site as the source of this original material. This can improve the site’s overall ranking, Lieberman says.

He also advises reviewing competitor web sites and those of non-commerce sites to get ideas for how to improve content presentation.

Lieberman also emphasized the importance of images, especially on product pages. “Content is more than descriptions,” he says.

OneWayFurniture.com’s content reassessment taught Lieberman three lessons. “Less is usually more,” he says. “Don’t overcrowd the site.”  He also concluded that bigger images are beneficial because consumers want them. It’s also essential to focus on key page elements and make calls to action prominent.

OneWayFurniture.com is No. 433 in Internet Retailer’sTop 500 Guide.

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