In the beginning of 2011 Google rolled out something called Panda. Panda is a massive change to how Google searches and ranks web pages.
Before Panda Google looked for some sort of uniqueness to your site as well as at who was linking to your site. As long as you has a few interesting bits of information and some links from the local chamber of commerce you were all set.
It's changed - big time. Google is now looking at how people search for you as well as what they do when they are on your website. This update was designed to punish link farms and content farms.
A link farm are those useless sites that you used to come across with a bit of irrelevant content and a ton of links to various places. People in the SEO business would create millions of those sites to try and trick Google into thinking that their customer was popular. Many distributors hired inexpensive SEO services that used these kinds of tricks.
A content farm is something that takes content from other places and re-purposes it on a new website. Imagine buying a list of restaurants from a database company then posting that list on your travel website. You now have content you can sell ads against and make a few bucks. Now imagine that hundreds of other people did the same thing. How is Google to know which website has the correct list? They don't, so they decide that if lots of people have the same data then they must all be up to no good. They then lower the ranking of every website with the same data. Promotional products distributors do this with supplier data all the time and it's a big problem.
So if you're hoping to have people find you on the web when they are searching for promotional products and you're using supplier provided data then you're getting punished by Google.
That's why companies like 4imprint and Branders who create their own product information do so well in the search rankings.
What's a distributor to do if they want to get found on the web? A distributor is going to have to create their own product data for the things they want to sell on their website. It's going to be painful and expensive but it's the only way you're going to have a hope of ranking well on the search engines going forward.
It's a tough world when cute little creatures like Pandas turn out to be so mean and nasty!
Written by David Verchere.
Image credit: Chris Wieland