Google has been attacking the local market in a big way – “Places” is an attempt to compete directly with Yelp in the local business review market, and their Groupon clone is rolling out slowly across the country as well. While many observers dislike Google’s philosophy of “buy it or copy it” (in addition to creating a near-clone of Yelp in Places, Google Offers is a straight riff on Groupon, which Google failed to acquire last year after offering billions), the company’s ubiquitous presence means that nearly anything they launch should be watched carefully.
Google is serious about making Places the go-to service for local reviews, and they’ve built a local presence in many markets to promote it. Here in Austin, both Places and Offers are receiving heavy promotion on social media, and it’s interesting to see Google’s enthusiasm for promoting their own services rub up against their public fight against web spam and junk content. In its aggressive promotion of review writing for Places, Google is essentially encouraging the creation of low-quality content to boost the service’s own ranking.
This promotion popped up last week: looks innocuous enough, and there’s a quick aside to discourage you from posting spam. But by holding contests to get users to post as many reviews as possible in a very short amount of time, Google cannot be serious about quality – quantity is the goal here, because more reviews beget better rankings.
If Google cared about review quality, they certainly wouldn’t encourage users to write reviews as quickly as possible. It calls into question the whole purpose of the service, and indeed Google’s attention to content quality in general. How can you downgrade content farm sites globally while at the same time encouraging a content farm mentality for services where you’re trying to build market share on your own?
Google’s webmaster guidelines for content quality suggest asking yourself “Does this help my users?” when considering the content you create and publish. In the case of contests to quickly create business reviews in as short amount of time as possible, I think the answer is clearly no.
In a previous post, we tackled the problem of SEO for promotional products and why it’s so difficult. Today, Google’s Matt Cutts released another video that addresses this problem directly. A webmaster asks if they will be penalized for offering the same product on three different domains, and it’s worth watching Cutts’ response in its entirety here.
The problem here, as it relates directly to promotional products, is that the vast majority of web sites selling promotional products contain identical products. There are two reasons for this: First, there are hundreds of thousands of products in the industry and it’s nearly impossible for anyone operating a website to customize and manage all those products, so most sites simply take a “product data feed” from suppliers or data aggregators (like ASI, SAGE, or Distributor Central) and display that product data. Therefore, most promotional products websites display the exact same data, product numbers and pricing information.
Second, even a fraction of that massive selection of products is difficult to manage. We recommend very strongly that our clients only showcase 3000-5000 products on their sites from the top suppliers, but even a selection that small is tough for most small businesses to customize and maintain.
So what should you do? If you use a platform like storeBlox, we offer automated tools for making every product unique, using a variety of techniques such as URL customization and custom SKU creation. These tools are not silver bullets, but they help solve the primary problem of a product on your site looking exactly like a product on your competitor’s. To find out more about the storeBlox e-commerce platform and how it can ease the burden of SEO, please visit eBlox.com.
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