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Seeing a 40% decline in sales since Google adjusted its algorithm, online ergonomic-products retailer Ergo In Demand Inc. in Central Point, Ore., reduced its 17-person staff to five, moved to a 4,500-square-foot office space from one more than double in size and cut $4,000 in monthly software subscriptions.
Many small but growing Web retailers say they have been punished since Google, which handles nearly two-thirds of all Web searches, moved in late February to weed out "content farms," or sites that post information without attention to quality or by copying text from other sources such as government websites.
But the impact was also felt by large e-commerce sites. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., and eBay Inc. appeared to rise in search results, according to companies that track Google rankings. One shopping site that has benefited, Buy.com, says it was "delighted" by the initial change.
Still, many small businesses that rely on Google for Web traffic are taking it hard—and looking for ways to adapt.
"We got caught in the fire," says Mitchell Lieberman, chief executive of One Way Furniture Inc., an online furniture retailer in Melville, N.Y., that had revenue of $17 million in 2010.
His company's website, onewayfurniture.com, saw its Web traffic from Google drop as much as 64% after the changes. Part of the problem, Mr. Lieberman suspects, is his company has relied on manufacturer descriptions for the 30,000 products it sells. He says many of his competitors buy from the same manufacturers and use the same write-ups.
Mr. Lieberman has started paying free-lance writers to create original, more detailed product descriptions. He recently added canonical tags to his website, which help search engines distinguish original from duplicated content. Despite his efforts, he says his site's ranking on Google has yet to improve.
Right, WebMD is an excellent site you don't need any others (no sarcasm, I mean it).
There is a whole other world of medicine out there that has fantastic success. I would argue that this latest update favors traditional medicine – big players.
Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, an online job marketplace, suggests that Google may have played a role in the rising unemployment, though mainly outside the U.S. The search company's recent "Panda" algorithm change, implemented to reduce the presence of low-quality content in search results, appears to have decimated the content farming business, he said in a phone interview.
The search company's recent "Panda" algorithm change, implemented to reduce the presence of low-quality content in search results, appears to have decimated the content farming business, he said in a phone interview.