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Another Google Slap!

 Date: Thursday 10 June, 2010
News Content

We have been agonising over whether we should be writing this news article at all, but in the end, we felt that we should have our say.

By now most osCommerce Stores would have noticed that their product pages have been dropped from Googles index and that their category pages are still in the index. Some SEO experts have come out and stated that the issue is one of duplicate content, while others say it is because product pages are less important (have fewer links pointing to them) then category pages and the theories go on and on...

Since all the other search engines use googles data, it's not hard to see what a devastating effect this could have on your online store. When something changes in google, that change is reflected in all the other search engines, like yahoo, bing and so on....

In the past, oscommerce stores have really dominated the search results. I remember not to long ago, when I would search of a product and the first 3 to 4 pages of google results where oscommerce stores. We believe that the oscommerce stores have been so successful in their SEO effects that google might possibly see them as spam now!

Further, we also believe that spam is simply marked as spam in googles index and is still in the index, but hidden, so no one sees it.

About 6 months ago, when we received our 2nd google slap, we decided to do a few little experiments and see what would happen. We renamed around 10 of our product URLs to not include any redundant information in the URL, such as it's product id number. For example, a URL of *~p-345.html was renamed to be just *.html and so on.

Today, it should come as no surprise that these products are the top 10 products viewed in our store. It is important to note that we reset our stats at the beginning of every month. We should be getting different results every month for the top 10 products, like we used to in the past, but we are not. We have even searched for these products in google to check that the URL bring in the traffic is the *.html URL and not some other URL.

We then started to look though our log files and started to noticed some more interesting things. We noticed that the articles URLs of the form *.html were still in googles index. We could also see that our news articles of the form n-xxx-*.html (where xxx are digits 0 to 9) were also still in googles index. We also saw that our category URLs where still in googles index and so on, but the product URL's were gone. At least 99% were gone.

Could it be that google is just targeting oscommerce product URLs of the form *p-xxx.html, where xxx are digits 0 to 9?

If we are correct, then what google is doing is filtering out product URL's that are of the form *p-xxx.html (eg. *p-64.html). To test this we have renamed all our product URLs to be of the form *.html with a 301 redirect returned for the old URL. That's around a 1000 URLs we have renamed. We obviously did not do this by hand, but instead wrote a quick script to do the job for us, paying particular attention to making sure that each URL generated is unique and based on the products title.

Should we start to see more people finding us via these new URLs, which is easy to see by simply looking at our log files, then we would have hit the nail right on the head. We will report back and let people know in the next few months.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
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