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|Are Article Pages Killing My eCommerce Site?|
Hi there, Everyone:
Can having a blog / article pages hurt an ecommerce site?
I know that people have often suggested having a blog on an ecommerece site to improve traffic and SEO to the ecommerce pages.
Let's say that we sell photographs of monuments around the world. The article pages would have information about those monuments (history, stats, etc.,)
The last two years it seemed to work for us. But we were hit with March 23rd, 2012 panda and I have a suspicion that the article pages are HURTING our site more than helping it, possibly because the user stats for the article pages are worse than the stats for the ecommerce section of the site:
User Metrics Compared when as a Landing page:
% of Total visits: (Articles) 31.73% / (eCommerce) 12.60%
Pages Per visit: (Articles) 1.70 / (eCommerce) 3.09
Average Visitor Duration: (Articles) 00:01:20 / (eCommerce) 00:01:19
% New visits: (Articles) 86.10% / (eCommerce) 85.11%
Bounce Rate: (Articles) 79.69% / (eCommerce) 51.96%
The thing that sticks out to me is that the bounce rate for the article pages is significantly higher than the bounce rate for eCommerce pages and that the pages per visit for article pages is lower than that of the ecommerce pages.
The other thing is that while the article pages to get linked to, which I am sure increases the page rank of the whole site, they don't drive much traffic or sales to the ecommerce setion of the site.
Any suggestions appreciated. Really need to get out from under Panda.
thanks in advance.
Those stats are quite scary with extremely high bounce rates. Can you clarify if the articles are part of the site or in a blog?
Panda was reportedly aimed at "content farms" and sites with similar characteristics to content farms. These characteristics might include shallow content, multiple pages with similar content, sometimes targeting minor variations of the same keyword.
On the other hand, articles can sometimes support other pages, such as eCommerse pages, by helping to define what the site is about.
How many separate articles does your site have, and what proportion of the total number of pages does this represent?
Thanks for the responses so far:
|Those stats are quite scary with extremely high bounce rates. |
You are quire right - I am not proud of them. Floundering here trying to figure out how to reduce the bounce rate. (traffic is about 85% organic search.)
|Can you clarify if the articles are part of the site or in a blog? |
They are in a wordpress blog which is on the same domain as the eCommerce site. (i.e., mydomain.com/blog/ )
Most of the articles interlink amongst themselves, but a few of them link to a couple of the product pages.
|How many separate articles does your site have, and what proportion of the total number of pages does this represent? |
There are approximately 60 blog posts (articles) total. We have about 250 product pages. The articles get the majority of traffic (and the majority of inbound links).
(I used to have a directory and a coppermine gallery but removed them within a few weeks of getting hit by the March 23rd, 2012 Panda)
|On the other hand, articles can sometimes support other pages, such as eCommerse pages, by helping to define what the site is about. |
That's the thing: I am not sure that they are helping to define the site. Only VERY RARELY does a visitor who lands on an article ever end up purchasing anything. So there is a bid difference in the INTENT of the user to the article pages than to the eCommerce pages.
again, any thoughts are truly appreciated.
|The articles get the majority of traffic (and the majority of inbound links). |
If it were my site, I wouldn't delete them unless I was pretty sure they were the main cause of the problem. And even if I decided to delete them, I would do it gradually.
I seem to remember that you brought up the possibility of re-directing these pages in an earlier thread. But I wouldn't do that either unless I was pretty sure it would help.
|If it were my site, I wouldn't delete them unless I was pretty sure they were the main cause of the problem. And even if I decided to delete them, I would do it gradually. |
Yeah, that worries me. I would instantly loose page rank overnight.
The thing that worries me though is that the EXIT rate of my ecommerce pages is probably higher due to people who go to an article page, click on a photo which takes them to the ecommerce pages, and then decide to leave the site (since they have no intent to buy anything anyway).
Since I seem completely unable to monetize those article pages, and since I can't figure out other reasons for the Panda demotion, I wonder what I have to lose?
(of course with my luck, it is probably something unrelated to the article pages, so if I were to jettison them, I would probably lose all page rank AND still be Panda bitten.)
Are they good pages? Significant in their niche, with unique content that can't be found somewhere else? Are they authoritative on their topic?
|Only VERY RARELY does a visitor who lands on an article ever end up purchasing anything. So there is a bid difference in the INTENT of the user to the article pages than to the eCommerce pages. |
I don't know if this your Panda problem. If they're good pages, it shouldn't be. If they're not particularly good pages - they're informative, but nothing that can't be found elsewhere - and you already know they're not converting into sales - personally, I would probably move them onto another domain or subdomain, if I couldn't come up with a way to make them convert.
You seem pretty attached to them, but if they're not converting to sales - why?
[edited by: netmeg at 11:07 pm (utc) on Jun 16, 2012]
Well if you decide to delete them, I suggest you start with those that attract the least traffic and/or have the worst user metrics.
|Those stats are quite scary with extremely high bounce rates. |
Don't be so quick to paint with a broad brush. Everything is relative.
I have some sites with extremely high bounce rates (80%+), but sometimes that's just the nature of the content.
For example, if someone wants to learn how to cure a [insert painful medical ailment here], they're not very likely to spend a whole lot of time browsing your site. They have some more important things to do...
Obviously, I'm not saying a high bounce rate is good. But I am saying that sometimes a high bounce rate is entirely appropriate, depending on the keywords that are driving traffic.
|Are they good pages? Significant in their niche, with unique content that can't be found somewhere else? Are they authoritative on their topic? |
Not authoritative, but helpful... They are something like a very scaled down wikipedia pages - although they predate wikipedia (and wikipedia and ehow often cite them as references).
|You seem pretty attached to them, but if they're not converting to sales - why? |
They do attract links and they get shared by facebook users... but primarily I guess I am just holding on to the myth that they will help drive sales :(
Your stats suggest that while users who land on article pages don't look at many pages, they do stick around long enough to read the article in full.
I'd worry about negative signals if they were bouncing after mere seconds, but not if they're sticking around for 00:01:20 to read the article.
You say there's some interlinking between articles ... how is that being presented?
Make sure it's easy, obvious and inviting for users to read additional articles, or start exploring the ecommerce section.
Here's an insight to dig for: How many of your buyers are return visitors who had their interest piqued in an earlier visit, vs. first-time visitors? Figuring that out might yield some useful insights.
|Here's an insight to dig for: How many of your buyers are return visitors who had their interest piqued in an earlier visit, vs. first-time visitors? Figuring that out might yield some useful insights. |
Since you have the visitor's attention at the beginning, with your articles, you may try to capture their email at this stage via newsletter, coupons, contests, etc.
Keep their eyeballs on your brand so when they are ready to buy they may be more readily to remember you.
Another idea: Do you have "related posts" listings at the end of your articles to encourage clicking to other parts of your site.
Buckworks and mslina make good points.
In addition, article pages can help define what a site is about, and by doing so could actually give a hidden boost to the rankings of the ecommerce pages. So if you delete the article pages, you might reduce the traffic to the ecommerce pages.
Thank you, buckworks, mslina2002, and aristotle.
You all make good points, and in a normal world, I would agree with you.
But right now, I have to figure out why I was hit by Panda on March 23rd - and more importantly, how to get out of it.
Sigh... I may just have to walk away from this site. It takes up a LOT of time and doesn't make all that much money. Just wish I knew how to make a site that DID make money.
How integrated is the blog into the site design? Is it easy to navigate to your product pages as you mentioned only a few blog pages mentioned the products. Could it be a case of redesigning the blog template to further integrate users with the ecommerce site?
|Could it be a case of redesigning the blog template to further integrate users with the ecommerce site? |
The blog design is a little more "distinct" from the ecommerce site, on purpose.
Previously it was more integrated. For example, the left hand navigation for the ecommerce categories would also display on the blog pages.
I have never been able to convert readers into buyers, even when it was more integrated. So I decided to segregate it more and use "banner ads" (basically, graphics offering a 10% discount for blog readers to buy something on our site.) Unfortunately, those don't convert either.
(One reason I segregated it was because it was easier to get links when it looked like a separate section as opposed to being integrated into the ecommerce section of the site.)
If these articles are uniques it's impossible that they make problems.
personally in respect to Panda I would be more worried about the non informative pages than the informative pages! IE your product/buying pages are probably why Panda does not like you not the articles that have good content. I know you can't get rid of these pages as you are an eCommerce site, however I don't know why you are jumping to deleting pages. Anyone who knows anything about Panda should be telling you to add more GOOOOOOD content! not take away the good content you have. When ever a client asks me these sorts of questions post panda, I have kind of a standard answer. Do what SEOmoz do. Stick with me. You could do worse than follow SEOmoz.
What they do is have a sales area! (not everyone buys from them the first time they arrive on the site, but eventually a goodly number of returning people buy, They are very successful at selling their stuff)
ok that "Sales Area" is the S#%T content and they know it. So what do they do? They offset it with a blog/fresh content areas. I say areas because they have 2!
the first is "The YouMoz Blog" which has guest posts and posts from non-experts. technically Rand has realized that this content is just kind of filler and although Google likes it better than the "Sales pages" it is still not the content that pushes the site over the top!
So the second blog area is "The Daily SEO Blog" Which has a more expert/authority area. This part of the site offsets the "bad content/sales pages" and adds to the Google love being generated by the "The YouMoz Blog" area.
So I believe the answer to your problems is not less "Quality" content and heaven forbid removing the "Good" content you already have but adding more better/fresh/authoritative content. Even if you feel it is not converting for you. Becoming the authority in your niche is what you should be trying to achieve! become that authority and sales will follow. You are obviously not Amazon.com or bestbuy.com. So I don't think you are going to get back to page 1 by being a sales only site!
You can do a lot worse than following one of the most successful SEO sites on the web.
Thanks for the suggestion. You do make a very good point here:
|So I believe the answer to your problems is not less "Quality" content and heaven forbid removing the "Good" content you already have but adding more better/fresh/authoritative content. Even if you feel it is not converting for you. Becoming the authority in your niche is what you should be trying to achieve! become that authority and sales will follow. You are obviously not Amazon.com or bestbuy.com. So I don't think you are going to get back to page 1 by being a sales only site! |
I will have to think about this. I might be able to get people to contribute to the site and (hopefully) be able to add quality information to it.
@ Planet13. I would almost guarantee that the articles are not the issue. Unless of course there are some duplicate content issues, arising from the article section.
Remember what you said last week, about clutching at straws? It's difficult I know, as you're desperate but I fear you run the risk of making matters worse.
Interesting post this Planet13. I've been raising this question with my current and previous SEO constantly since Panda hit in April 2011.
We're the same as you, ecommerce site with a blog on the main domain, hit by Panda in April 2011 and still haven't recovered. We had a warning in our WMT account just before Panda hit about Wordpress being out of date and that our version could be vulnerable to hackers which could create a bad user experience. We updated it immediately but then I started questioning whether the blog content (which was produced by the SEO company at the time) was worthwhile and whether that could be part of our problem.
The advice to me has always been keep it, on the basis it's original content (by that I mean written by us or for us - not necessarily saying anything new though). It's not a great read in my view and doesn't give the impression we are authorities in our niche so, like you, I think we should get rid. It was just an SEO tactic and I'm sure Google knows SEO's recommend this as a way to get a constant stream of fresh unique content onto your site, so I suspect it counts towards the 'shallow' content count unless it's actually really good, relevant, unique content. So my view is it could be harming you if it's rubbish content.
Interestingly our biggest competitors have either abandoned their blogs or have them on a subdomain. They either don't see the need to have blog content, or are nervous about having that content associated with their main domain.
Our problem like most ecommerce sites is the uniqueness of our product pages and the volume of them compared to the blog or any other pages of content that are 100% our own content. I like Viral's advice - build the non-ecommerce content of the site (great content though, not content for contents sake) until it eclipses the ecommerce content and then maybe you'll tip the balance.
The key though is of course the quality of the content regardless of whether that's in a blog section of the site or elsewhere. Personally, if you think it's rubbish I'd remove it, but you'll need to replace it with stuff you think is good, or put a lot more work into your buying pages to improve the level of great content on those.....or ideally both.
I've recently started adding author tags to our blog articles and it's a good test of what good content is. If you'd put your name to it and have a picture of yourself in the search results for that article, it's probably okay. Unfortunately I've only been prepared to put my name to 25% of our blog content, which probably says it all.
Incidently I got a warning about WP being out of date, the day before Panda struck on January 18th.
I am guessing it's pure coincidence though.
For an ecommerce site, the goal is usually sales, sales, and nothing but sales.
You can have all the quality content on the planet, but if it doesn't lead to sales, you have a problem. Is it directly causing a Panda issue? I don't know, but I suspect not. But if it's bringing you traffic that doesn't engage or convert, and if you don't have a clear idea on how to make it convert, then you have to ask yourself how much time and resources do you want to devote this content, on the off chance that one day - *maybe* - they suddenly start buying from your site.
Maybe there's a way you can be classified as a quality information site, but a low quality transactional site, I dunno. But it seems to me this content, as popular and good as it may be, is pulling focus away from your ecommerce. And me, I'd separate 'em.
There's a reason why, in landing page science, they tell you minimize the navigation and distractions on the page, and draw focus to the big orange BUY NOW button.
Is it possible that you are linking within the articles to ecom pages using a pattern of anchor text that could appear "unnatural"?
I am currently working on a site with a similarish profile to that you outline and with a similar issue and have identified over-optimised internal link text as one *possible* source of the issue, although as of yet I haven't tried implementing any solutions.
Again, thanks for the well thought out advice. I do have a LOT to improve on the ecommerce side of things, and I admit right now I am kind of fishing for possible quick fixes for the Panda situation.
As for the navigation, it is generally one way; there isn't any linking from the ecommerce pages to the articles (blog) except for one link from the home page, but the articles DO link some of to the ecommerce pages.
|Is it possible that you are linking within the articles to ecom pages using a pattern of anchor text that could appear "unnatural"? |
That is a possibility. The whole purpose of the articles is to try and flow page rank to the ecommerce pages, and to also create a domain-wide level of "authority" for the WHOLE site.
Planet13, you say the stats in your original post are "as a Landing page" but have you looked at what proportion of your blog pages are viewed as a result of internal navigation?
Your post prompted me to check my stats (as we were also hit by Panda and have a blog on the same domain which is not well integrated to the main site) and I discovered something quite shocking. 95% of my blog pages are never viewed!
On top of that, a large proportion of our product pages are never viewed via internal navigation. In other words, our site does a bad job of helping people discover all our products and blog posts.
I've spent the last year blindly improving content without even considering user engagement. Simply improving navigation to make all pages more easily discoverable from within the site might be the key (plus ensuring the blog posts and products are enticing so people want to check them out of course!).
Maybe this is what Panda looks at. Would be interesting to hear from owners of large sites who have and haven't been hit by Panda to see if there's a connection.
|Maybe there's a way you can be classified as a quality information site, but a low quality transactional site, I dunno. |
That's been my suspicion for quite a while. And with query terms also getting smashed into automated taxonomies, along with URLs and domains, the potential for mayhem seems very real to me.
|And with query terms also getting smashed into automated taxonomies, along with URLs and domains, the potential for mayhem seems very real to me. |
So what's the way out of it?
Obviously, improve the eCommerce side of things - but that is going to take time - something I am quickly running out of :(
And are ALL ecommerce sites with a blog this susceptible to the mayhem?
Google might look at these pages as "doorway" pages.
|Maybe there's a way you can be classified as a quality information site, but a low quality transactional site, I dunno. But it seems to me this content, as popular and good as it may be, is pulling focus away from your ecommerce. And me, I'd separate 'em. |
Thatís the problem all smaller businesses deal with in Google. I made money hand over fist until Google practically forces you into being an info/ecommerce site and re-writing everything. Once you go both ways you quickly wonder like Planet 13 is doing. Iíve seen the best advertising experts and it didnít adhere to what a University degree taught. Youíll know good advertising when it reaches out and graps you by the ____ís and says you canít live without me. It doesnít fall in line with the Kingís English that Google wants. It also includes some natural over-optimization plus repetitiveness which are hang-ups with Panda/Penguin. Seemingly a branded info or commerce site dealing with everything under the sun escapes this.
In general though it shouldnít be hurting the rankings but I didnít say income. There are quite a few people in these forums who have ďpulled backĒ ,as I call it, and had a reversal of fortune but it can go both ways. Sometimes the info doing seemingly nothing but giving exposure enhanced sales and other times it was just attracting people looking for free. In other words you have to recalculate the suffering more than in the past because of Panda/Penguin. So there's no one fixed answer.
[edited by: outland88 at 8:09 pm (utc) on Jun 20, 2012]
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