Rather than lead off this article with a flowery introduction, I am
going to jump straight to the point. Google spanked Apparel Search hard,
and left us wondering what we had done wrong in regard to search engine
Below I will discuss the following:
My "Guess" About Their Reason
Is Google Punishing Small Business
Google has metaphorically speaking disconnected our mouse and tossed us to
the curb as if we were an outdated piece of computer equipment. Are we
bitter? Yes, a tad. Will we let it keep us down? No, we don't think so.
Since the beginning of
our website development, our efforts have strictly been dedicated to
building a website that was helpful to our viewers. Have we been
successful? Well we are not really sure. However, we most certainly have
tried hard. Originally,
our efforts had been rewarded by the search engine gods. If a few
years ago you typed an apparel industry relevant term in Google, Apparel
Search would magically appear toward the top of the first page (deservedly
so; we had been the first to market in many respects). I don't mean just for a few terms. Our site was everywhere…
At that time, you could have typed, "fashion news", "fashion jobs",
"fashion designers", "clothing stores", etc., we would appear near the top
in the results.
Fast forward to today (May 2013), Apparel Search site is rarely found even
if you type the most evident search query for an apparel industry
In all honesty, we think we would be OK with the fact that other websites
appeared above ours (that is natural if they are better). HOWEVER, we are not pleased when we see websites rank
above ours that CLEARLY do not deserve the ranking.
Google's Side of the Story
Truth be told, we do not actually know their side of the story. Yeah, I know that I
implied above that I would tell you their reasoning. Unfortunately, I
cannot tell you something that I do not fully understand. As far as I can
comprehend, their pet panda & penguin have decided to disrupt our
Although we realize the panda & penguin updates to Google's algorithm has
been running rampant all over the entire internet, we really have not nailed down
exactly why they have found our website so enjoyable to disrupt.
Google Panda is a change to
Google's search results ranking algorithm that was first released in
February 2011. The change aimed to lower the rank of "low-quality
sites" or "thin sites", and return higher-quality sites near the top
of the search results.
Google Penguin is a codename
for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24,
2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of
websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now
declared black-hat SEO techniques involved in increasing artificially
the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing
to the page.
In order to investigate the disruption to our traffic, we visited Google
but we found the large blanket statements rather unhelpful.
Apparel Search site has over 55,000 pages and we have not used
a cookie cutter to make them. Because each page created is unique,
Google's generic information provides us insufficient guidance as
to how we can identify or fix our site specific issues.
After visiting the support page, our next step was to try out the
Google Webmaster Tools. This
helped us to identify a few minor issues, but it did not resolve our woes.
Yes, we know we should make "unique content, write for people not engines,
blah, blah, blah". This is exactly what we have been trying to do from day
Seeing that the Google educational resources have
not cured our troubles, we may have to turn to paid services such as
Note: SEOmoz also provide many excellent free services.
My "guess" regarding why Google spanked our site.
First, let me explain my little pity party is not all about Apparel Search.
get the fact that our site is one of many, many, many beat up by the
dastardly duo called Panda & Penguin. Although it is not a unique theory,
the theory that I currently share is that many innocent and non-innocent
websites have been damaged in when
their algorithm. Google's attempt to sweep across
the mass of spam websites has left more than a few innocent ones damaged
in the wake. The good news is that in addition to despite the fact
that we accidentally lost traffic, Google has fortunately been able to cut
back on some of the intended spammy websites. Obviously, making a wide sweeping adjustment has pros and
cons for both Google and web developers. I certainly can't fault them for
attempting to clear out the spam.
Google may not have targeted our site specifically, but they did in fact
negatively effect our search traffic when they did their spring cleaning. My
question is, "was our site that bad that it deserved punishment" or "is
their some simple technical aspect that is causing our reduced web traffic"?
Due to the fact that I do not know with certainty what Google objects to
on our site, we can only work based on what I know about our own site.
Dead Links: Yes, we have some of those (plenty). Probably more than we should.
The reality is that with tens of thousands of pages, it is not
possible to keep the site entirely clean at all times. Our site is
primarily a directory. When companies go out of business or change
their URL, they do not run it by me first…
Unique Content: The Apparel Search site is primarily unique content. I know this
because I personally developed each page. The only pages on our site
that do not contain unique content are pages that use an
that provides news, blog posts, etc. Does Google penalize us for using
an API. Even
on those pages, we had spent countless hours developing each page one
at a time with the purpose of making them unique for our viewers.
- Site Maps: This may be a big one… We have not had a site map. However,
we did set one up last week. As of today (May 2013), we have not seen benefit, but
our fingers are crossed. If you are reading this article in a
few years and see our traffic is way up, you may want to make sure you
implement sitemaps on your own site...
In Bound Links from our own sites: In addition to Apparel Search, we have developed fashion websites such as the
Industry Network, and a
few blogs. All of which
we have developed for
very unique purposes. Because it is one company, we link our sites back
and forth because we know where relevant and helpful information can be found. This
is absolutely one hundred percent done to benefit the viewer. When
mentioning a fashion designer in a blog post, isn't it natural to link
to that designer's biography on my main site? Becausewe have tens of
thousands of pages in my directory site and possibly tens of thousands
on my newspaper and blogs, wouldn't it be natural to have tons of
links back and forth. Does Google penalize our websites for what is done for the
good of our viewers? Do they see this is link farming?
Why Google should not have punished our site.
thought Google was on the good side of the force. All of that nonsense
about Microsoft being the evil empire and
Google being the golden child.
When catching up in size & importance, the good vs. evil playing field
certainly seems to shift a bit closer to center.
In my opinion, Google should have avoided the following:
They should NOT penalize an entire website if a certain section of the
site has elements that do not meet their current standard.
"A site is penalized as a whole if some pages are considered of poor
content". In my opinion, this is a bit harsh. We have a huge
website and most of it is created properly. If we accidentally used
the wrong coding on a particular area of the site a few years ago, why
would the entire site be downgraded?
Let me say again, "their current standard".
Google's algorithm and policy changes like the wind (as do other companies
search engines). Today's method and
standard changes tomorrow. Google, comes up with Canonical, Site Maps,
Authorship, and tons of other tech savy creations. I do not think it is a
surprise to anyone that if we adjust our site to meet all of those new
requirements, an entirely different set of rules will pop up the following
day. Clearly, when the SEO community catches up to Googles changes, they
would understand how to manipulate the engine results. When this occurs,
Google must once again change the rules. This does not hurt SEO companies
(it gains them new clients), but it does hurt the mom & pop website
Is it possible that Penguin & Panda may have hurt the small business more
than large corporations.
Does small business have the time to play around with SEO (online
Does small business have the resources to fund hiring consultants to
Does small business always have their own inside web developer or do
they have to pay for every tiny little adjustment.
Another reason that they should not have changed their algorithm is that
their search has in my opinion significantly lowered in quality. Sure,
fans of google can argue until you turn blue, but we know the apparel
segment as well as any other human on the planet. Maybe algorithms think they know better, but
the reality is that we can ascertain a proper site better than a computer…
It does not take a rocket scientist or much testing to put the words "Apparel
Industry" in the Google search engine and with human eyes look at the
result. Look at the first 5 or 10 pages of results, and try to honestly
tell me that Apparel Search does not deserve to be somewhere in those
results. In fact, our company happens to "own" other sites that appear before Apparel
Search and I know with 100% certainty that they are not nearly as good as
our primary website.
OK, I ranted a whined a bit in this article, but that is because we are passionate about the
fact that Google has gone in the wrong direction. Although it may be
sacrilegious to say, for my own personal use when researching companies
for our directory, I have for the past few months turned to
Bing as my primary search engine.
In all honesty, as of today, I find their site to provide better search
results. Sure, this may change, but as of today I am convinced.
You may want to also read our article
regarding the disavow
Updated February 2014: Here are a few
comments from a clever guy on a forum explaining to me his
thoughts about how Google is treating directories.
At one point, a
directory of topically related sites were useful, because Google
may have not been up to snuff with their results. 10 years ago. 5
years ago. Now? Definitely not. Sites like yours compete directly
with Google, and in their eyes, it's a bad user experience when a
user has to search in Google, and then search again in another
site that Google served up.
Google wants their results to match the
intent of the user's search. Type in words, click on the site that
matches their intent, and the day is done.
If the user searches for "fashion jobs" or
"clothing stores", Google wants to serve results that ARE fashion
jobs, or ARE clothing stores. They do not want the user to land on
another search engine or directory where they must continue their
search to find what they are looking for. Most users will click
"back" immediately upon discovering a result like that. I would.
If I land on a directory or another search engine, I head straight
back to Google and reform my query to actually find what I wanted
to find. If I searched "apparel directory", I'd be happy to find
your site. But people rarely search like that anymore. People have
changed, and therefore Google has changed as well.
Sorry to be blunt, but this is Google's
perspective here. If you want to rank well in their search engine,
you have to respect their perspective and understand their
The most prominent value in a site like
yours is to give visibility to unique and possibly high quality
sites which do not currently rank well in Google. But you aren't
going to be successful running the directory game. It's time for a
paradigm shift to match how people and Google have changed.
Perhaps you could reform your apparel site
into more of review based site, where relevant businesses can be
showcased with interesting content that a user might benefit from
reading. Without something new and unique, you're fighting a
losing battle against the world's largest search engine.
additional information about Apparel, Fashion or Clothing.