What Retailers Need to Do in Light of Recent Google Changes? Build Content Sites!

Google recently updated its search algorithm, which according to Google will affect about 11.8% of searches. The change is targeted towards pushing down sites with low-quality content. According to a blog post by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

So, what do retail sites do in light of these changes? The answer is simple – create high-quality original content that attracts backlinks naturally. The blog post by Amit and Matt further states importance of high quality content:

“Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.”

3 major areas for retailers to improve content quality:

1) Product Descriptions: At the very minimum, make your product descriptions unique. Simply using the web copy from manufacturer does no good as many other retailers would do the same thing. You should create your own unique product descriptions or add unique text to the copy you get from manufacturers.

2) User Generated Content (UGC): You need to have tools on your site that enable and encourage users to contribute content. This can be in the form of User Reviews, Questions & Answers, Polls and Stories contributed by users.

3) Build Content Sites: This is where most retailers are lagging behind, even the bigger ones. So, let’s explore this one in more detail. Now that you have made product descriptions unique and have added UGC to your site, what next? The logical next step is to enrich your site with informational content so that users come to you not only for transactions, but also for information that is of value to them. This can be in the form of content micro-sites, blogs or content widgets embedded on product and category pages. There are many benefits in doing this:

a) Build relationships that lead to repeat customers: Not many retailers can claim direct traffic as one of their major traffic sources. This is due to the fact that few retail sites can claim brand following. Most users get to your site through search or paid leads. By building informational sites, you are telling your customers you care about them. Instead of coming across as a business that uses marketing tricks to sell products, you now have a chance to attract customers by providing them informational value (that goes beyond competitive pricing). Once you build a value based relationship with your customer, you will start to see more direct traffic and repeat customers. This can be huge advantage given the high acquisition costs of new customers.

b) Better organic rankings – more traffic: Most retailers today rely heavily on paid leads, but everyone desires to show up higher in natural results. There is a reason Google ranks content sites higher than shopping sites for many product related searches. Google wants to make sure their users can find valuable information through search. There is intrinsic value in building high-quality content sites that show up higher in search results. These content sites tend to disrupt the user purchase funnel by bringing users to your site that are still in research phase.

c) Improved site engagement – more conversions: Retailers spend a lot on optimizing site for conversions, but very few think of engaging content during this optimization. Once the user is on your site, it is important to offer all information that user needs to make that purchase decision. Shoppers today demand much more than just product descriptions and user reviews. A lot of users browse products and then go to another site to learn or get more information about that product. Why not provide all relevant product related information (buying guides, product reviews, usage help, and so on) at appropriate junctures within your site?

Engagement also needs to go beyond just product related information to include community based articles and videos such as How-to library, News/Updates, Training/Tips, Troubleshooting and Support, and other types of educational, lifestyle and entertainment content. This is where a dedicated content site (under you domain) is important. It brings a content-site/magazine-style experience to your site and engages users throughout purchase lifecycle – before, during and after purchase.

d) Marketing fuel that drives Earned Media: Instead of bombarding your user with deals, why not provide them information they value? Quality content can bring customers to your site whilst providing something of importance to them. Content marketing, whether it is through Email Campaigns or Social Media, draws users to your site and compels them to provide invaluable word of mouth. This is actually the main reason most social media campaigns fail; they do not provide the type of content users love to consume and share.

I am a big believer in bringing high-quality content to retail sites that enables engagement and interaction hubs. With Social Media Optimization (SMO) gaining traction, such content is becoming even more important. Any content you publish on your site should be written for humans and not for keyword-dependent search engines. Google itself clearly wants every website to create content that way. Sooner the retailers move away from keyword-stuffed content copies, the better it will be for their site – both in terms of SEO and SMO.

What are your thoughts on improving content quality on retail sites?

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