Yes, Google Punished eBay for Bad SEO Practices

There has been a lot of speculation over the past few days about whether Google dropped the hammer on some of eBay’s search engine optimization tactics as part of its most recent “Panda” update. A report from Marketing Land, for example, shows that eBay’s visibility in organic search results may have dropped by about 50 percent by some measures.

Panda is Google’s name for updates to its search algorithm meant to improve the quality of search results by increasing rankings for sites with quality content while penalizing sites with thin, low-quality content or duplicate pages meant to boost results. When people who follow this type of stuff closely — and have access to specialized search tools — started noticing this week that eBay was no longer showing up in search results on thousands of different queries, the thinking was that Panda was the cause.

As it turns out, Google did in fact penalize eBay and knock a whole bunch of its pages off Google’s search results, but it wasn’t part of Panda, according to a person familiar with the situation. Rather, it was part of a so-called “manual action” that Google took against eBay early this week; the pages weren’t removed as part of the Panda rollout, which affects entire sites and not individual pages.

EBay declined to comment, and Google wouldn’t confirm that it had taken manual action against eBay.

So what exactly did eBay do wrong? That’s still not entirely clear, but some SEO experts have taken a crack at explaining where eBay may have made missteps.

For one deeper dive, you can take a look at a report that is being passed around from a site called RefuGeeks. The author says that the majority of pages that were removed from Google results were what he called “doorway” pages. These were category or sub-category pages that eBay may have been creating and optimizing in part to boost rankings in search results.

“It was pretty clever actually,” the RefuGeeks author states, “but I think it was overdone.”

Google apparently thought so, too.

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