Do you think using “bad SEO” tactics and black hat tricks are only embraced by the underbelly of the internet? Maybe it’s being used by no-name businesses and tricksters who want to make a quick buck on a very short-term website, fully expecting the penalties to come. Perhaps they’re still being tried by those who simply don’t know better, or by those seeking revenge and use negative SEO in order to take down a competitor. This may all happen on a daily basis—but don’t underestimate the oversight (or incredibly bad judgment) of some of the biggest online players.
According to rumors in May of 2014, eBay used some SEO tactics that weren’t perhaps legal or up to snuff with Panda updates. It’s been reported that the visibility of eBay in organic searches was diminished by up to 50 percent, which had people wondering if Google laid down the law, punishing one of the most popular websites of all. On May 23, 2014, it was confirmed.
Panda Gone Wild?
Panda itself isn’t an actual Google algorithm, but the name for an update to the search algorithm. Google, like other search engines, is charged with making sure the best search results pop up when you search for key words or phrases. When you Google “20th century vase shop,” you’ll probably see eBay listing in the top results. It’s what helps connect you to what you’re searching for, while aiding you in avoiding lower quality sites.
It’s no surprise that when you’re shopping for just about anything online, eBay results are pretty common. After all, Google doesn’t want you stumbling onto duplicate content sites, no-name sites that are riddled with spam, or sites that don’t comply with your key words. However, when SEO experts noticed that eBay wasn’t showing up in common search results, they started to think that Panda was on a rampage.
Both Sides Keeping Mum
Google has officially noted that, yes, eBay was penalized which resulted in many pages being removed from Google search results. However, Google is quick to point out that Panda isn’t to blame—it was actually a “manual action,” which is likely much worse. This wasn’t a snafu with a new rollout of Panda, a glitch in the system, or Panda taking things a little too seriously. This was done by hand, which means eBay may have been making some massive SEO blunders.
So far, both Google and eBay have failed to say anything more, hoping that the whole incident gets swept under the rug. Most of us may never know what exactly eBay was up to, but one thing is certain: For such a massive online site, it probably wasn’t a mistake. EBay knows exactly what’s legal and what’s not in terms of SEO, so this isn’t a newbie blunder that some site owner made. However, that doesn’t stop SEO experts from speculating.
If you can ponder the situation that got eBay in such a (gently used, once owned by the King of Prussia, shipping only $50) pickle, there’s probably an SEO professional rolling over the theory right now. However, one of the most popular speculations is that eBay started dishing up “doorway pages,” which are categories used solely to boost rankings and weren’t made for the benefit of consumers.
One SEO expert who penned a RefuGeeks article says, “It was pretty clever actually, but I think it was overdone.” If his theory is true, Google seems to wholeheartedly agree.