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Google penalizes ecommerce stores for bad reviewsJust when we thought we all recovered from all the Google algorithms out there—or at least we knew how to beat them, another Google intrusion is on the horizon. An interesting story caught our attention from Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land who attended the SXSW symposium in Austin in March of 2013 and the insights he gained from Matt Cutts (Google’s head of the Webspam team) should be noted.

Sullivan’s article, “Bad Merchant? Google May Drop Your Rankings Later This Year” is intriguing indeed. Matt Cutts is famous for leaving a lot left out of comments on posed questions and he didn’t disappoint with the question on penalizing bad merchant reviews either.

In a SXSW session called, “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing,” Cutts commented on the bad merchant penalties by saying:

“We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in search results.”

So, when the launch will actually occur is under speculation and how they plan on rating merchants and leaving them out of top search results isn’t really “clear.”

Cutts went on to say:

“We are trying to ask ourselves, are there other signals that we can use to spot whether someone is not a great merchant, and if we can find those, and we think that they are not all that spammable, then we’re more than happy to use those.”

Image of Matt Cutts from GoogleThis statement is even more of a puzzle from Cutts. What signals—a bad review? What will Google use to determine if a merchant is a “great merchant?” What will determine if a merchant is “spammable?”

Tough to guess, but search engine experts warn there are things ecommerce retailers should be doing ASAP that outweigh negative customer reviews.

Our best guess is to ensure good reviews by offering discounts to loyal customers, asking them point blank if there’s a reason they can’t leave a good review to contact  you prior to doing so to see if you cn fix the problem as well as leaving good buyer feedback.

Playing Nice with Google

If we forget about bad reviews and feedback and the foresight of Matt Cutts, there are some things experts are saying eBay sellers and other ecommerce platform sellers can do to ensure they aren’t hit (or at least not much) from those ugly Panda and Penguin algorithms Google likes to spit out every month or so.

Item Descriptions

If you’re copying item descriptions word for word from manufacturers or have identical item descriptions for every product you have up for sale, that’s a no-no as far as Google is concerned. They call this duplicate content and Google absolutely hates that.

Even if you alter the descriptions, change the words around or rewrite them, make them your own and then mix the up a bit, chances are your ecommerce site will do well in a Google search.

Item Titles

If you use a title like “Cell Phone Case” you will be lost in the world of Google and who knows where your listing will appear—page 7 or 8?

Be specific in you item titles – Samsung Galaxy Cell Phone Case, or iPhone Cell Phone Case. If you have lots to sell say so—Many iPhone Cell Phone Cases for Sale or Tons of Cell Phone Cases for Every Make and Model.

SEO experts also recommend using your item title somewhere near the top of your item description—even as the first sentence.

We’ve Got Pictures!

Ecommerce stores should use HTML and Meta DescriptionsEvery smart ecommerce retailer knows without a photo, an item probably won’t sell. But Google loves images and photos—even videos, but just providing them within your item description isn’t enough.

Go one step further and write “five images available” or “zoom to these images” or “large images” or “look at our video” and Google will rank you higher. If your ecommerce platform allows you to “name” images, don’t just leave them as Image012345, say what the image is: iPhone4 Cell Phone Case or Samsung Galaxy SII Cell Phone Case.

Link to the Relevant Only

Most of our ecommerce sellers have stores filled with a variety of products. Google will penalize you for linking to something non-relevant. Using our cell phone cases example again, if you insert a link under words like “many more cell phone cases” and the link directs the shopper to your laptop store; this is not relevant at all—link to the “many more cell phone cases” you have for sale.

Google enjoys links that are relevant and go to the desired topic or product.

HTML and Meta Descriptions

If your ecommerce platform allows for HTML titles and Meta Descriptions—use them. A good tip to keep in mind is your HTML title should use your keywords “iPhone cell phone cases” but a variation of those keywords say, “Discount Cell Phone Cases for the iPhone.”

How ecommerce retailers can beat GoogleMeta descriptions only need to be 2-3 sentences and again these should use keyword variations and select words from your item descriptions that inform. Adjectives like, great, awesome or colorful are not good to use in Meta descriptions. Instead try using Brand New or NWT or Discount or Cheap or another product feature making your item unique—don’t use unique either—that’s another no-go.

Following some of these tips is a great way to protect yourself from the King of the search engine world—Google. If you need help with employing some of these tactics, all ecommerce platforms whether it’s eBay, Volusion, 3DCart, Shopify or BigCommerce offer tutorials on how to make your product descriptions stand out.

Need a custom store design—OC Designs Online can help and we offer the very best prices around—even for UK and Australian ecommerce retailers. Don’t have a logo or need help with social media design?—we can help with that too!

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