As reported last week, eBay appeared alongside the biggest apparent losers from Google's most recent Panda update, which is supposed to be softer than past updates, and make things a little better for smaller sites and businesses. According to reports, it turns out eBay was hit by a manual penalty rather than Panda.
Just after the update was announced, Moz spotted eBay's loss of search rankings for numerous keywords and phrases. The main eBay subdomain fell out of Moz's "Big 10," which is its metric of the ten domains with the most real estate in the top 10 search results.
“Over the course of about three days, eBay fell from #6 in our Big 10 to #25,” wrote Dr. Peter J. Meyers at Moz. “Change is the norm for Google’s SERPs, but this particular change is clearly out of place, historically speaking. eBay has been #6 in our Big 10 since March 1st, and prior to that primarily competed with Twitter.com for either the #6 or #7 place. The drop to #25 is very large. Overall, eBay has gone from right at 1% of the URLs in our data set down to 0.28%, dropping more than two-thirds of the ranking real-estate they previously held.”
He went on to highlight specific key phrases where eBay lost rankings. It lost two top ten rankings for three separate phrases: “fiber optic christmas tree,” “tongue rings,” and “vermont castings”. Each of these, according to Meyers, was a category page on eBay.
eBay also fell out of the top ten, according to the report, for queries like “beats by dr dre,” “honeywell thermostat,” “hooked on phonics,” “batman costume,” “lenovo tablet,” “george foreman grill,” and many others.
Then Searchmetrics put out its regular lists of winners and losers from the Panda update, and eBay was in the top 2 for losers.
Late on Friday, however, just as much of the U.S. was transitioning into a three-day weekend, reports emerged that eBay was actually hit by a manual penalty rather than Panda. Jason Del Rey at Re/code wrote:
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.
Neither company would comment.
Del Ray points to a blog post at RefuGeeks, which shows that pages affected were category pages that users are unlikely to get to navigating the site, and were designed specifically for search engines, which is precisely the kind of thing that will get you penalized by Google.
And that appears to be what happened. It looks like eBay has been removing the pages. A specific URL the post points to is no longer returning a page.
Image via Wikimedia Commons