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  • Why Not All Shopping Search Engines Have Lost in the UK Google Panda/Quality Update

    Everybody is talking about content farms as if they were the only type of sites hit by the latest large Google update. That’s a very limited viewpoint.

    One of the most striking effects of the UK version of Google’s quality update dubbed Panda has been the huge losses by shopping search engines and review sites that focus on price comparison. Not all such services have lost though.

    Among the losers were international heavyweights like:

    • Ciao.co.uk
    • Shopping.com
    • Bizrate.com
    • Idealo.co.uk
    • Kelkoo.co.uk
    • Shopzilla.co.uk


    They have felt the negative impact of the Panda update in the UK by losing at least half or in many cases most of their Google rankings. The press has been covering only Ciao.co.uk because it’s a Microsoft site which filed a complaint against Google prior to the update.


    There is one obvious exception though, and nobody covers it. Pricerunner.co.uk hasn’t lost. Why? Just visit the site and then one or more of the others. Can you see it? You don’t have to be an SEO expert to find out what the difference is. I want to describe it anyway for those who don’t have the time to review the sites themselves in depth.


    There are several quite obvious factors why Pricerunner has been spared as the only real price comparison site. They might be obvious to me but difficult to discern for you, so I will share my analysis of the positive aspects of Pricerunner that have made it stand out among the downranked shopping search industry:


    Clean modern web design

    It’s obvious that Pricerunner has a clean web design, with lots of white space and a clear focus. It has a central feature article on top of the homepage, whereas most other price comparison sites just overwhelm the user with a portal-like link list nobody can overlook easily.


    Proper usability and readability

    It’s not just the positive first impression you get from looking at the Pricerunner site. You won’t bounce after visiting the homepage, but then you will stay even longer due to well-structured site architecture and readable structure.


    Valuable editorial content

    Unlike the other classic shopping search engines, which only display auto-fed content from the shops they work with, you’ll find really valuable editorial content on Pricerunner. I’ve tested the price comparison sites by looking for vacuum cleaners. I’m by no means an expert on them (who is?), so I was glad to find some additional in-depth info, aka “buying advice“, on what to look for. Otherwise only brands, reviews and prices would remain there to judge. That’s OK if you already know what you are looking for, but otherwise you don’t even know whether the reviews are trustworthy or the products worth their money.


    Healthy backlink profile

    I’ve compared the backlink profiles of both losers and the winner, and guess what I found right on top of my Open Site Explorer query? Both Ciao.co.uk and Idealo.co.uk, two sites out of those with the biggest losses during the quality update, had spammy links, guess where, on Google.com itself! They were placed on autogenerated Google Notebook pages (they have been removed now it seems). Apart from that they had barely any quality links. Ciao had several from Techcrunch because they have sued Google but that’s almost all. Pricerunner has the likes of Opera, DMOZ, Mashable and Search Engine Watch linking to it in highly relevant contexts.


    Now just look at the main generic keywords Pricerunner is currently ranking for in the UK:

    1. price – #2
    2. price comparison – #1
    3. compare prices – #1
    4. shopping – #5


    Whoever is responsible for Pricerunner’s content and SEO strategy deserves a raise of at least 50%. For all the others: copy this strategy now.

    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    6 Responses to “Why Not All Shopping Search Engines Have Lost in the UK Google Panda/Quality Update”

    1. Mook says:

      Hello and thanks for your blog. Very informative.

      I feel this is a bit easy to come out after the battle and say “hey look at pricerunner, they are so great!”.

      I don’t believe UX is “so” better on pricerunner than shopzilla or bizrate for instance.
      For example, you have to scroll the page 2 times more on PriceRunner to get to the bottom of the page.

      Shopzilla also has links from DMOZ and the others too… but you forget to mention it in the article (even if I think this is not an essential link anymore).

      I don’t really understand the point of this article because you seem to be blinded by the efficiency of PriceRunner whereas the other ones are not so different as you may describe.

      It would have been genius if you have written this article in 2010 or early 2011 but one week after Panda UK and more than one month after Panda US, I don’t see the point. The different “obvious factors” seem to be very objective, don’t you think (UX part) ?

      Again, this is also my opinion ;-)

    2. Tad Chef says:

      Hey Mook: Indeed I have mainly compared Pricerunner to Ciao and Idealo because there the downranking was most obvious. Bizrate and Shopping may not be as bad. On the other hand they aren’t good either. I see no content, there is no focus and just portal like clutter as in 1999.
      Also it’s a wide spread myth that scrolling is actually bad UX, it isn’t.


      Indeed people prefer scrolling to clicking. It’s more likely that someone scrolls that the same person will click an internal link.

      You ask what the point of the article is? It’s showing a positive example. Everybody is whining around and pointing fingers about panda. Here is a site that not only survived panda in an industry that got slapped as a whole it dominates the market now, for good reason.

      This example can teach how to deal with the new algo.

    3. Mook says:

      Thanks for your answer Tad Chef, much appreciated.

      I better understand your point here. Thanks.
      But I still feel you are giving too much credit to Pricerunner knowing that the site walked out clean after Panda.

      I see some good intentions on the other sites like http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.idealo.co.uk%2F

      I am just confused that you suggest that Pricerunner is the only one to provide good stuff (let’s take the example of buying guides) whereas Kelkoo and Shopping for instance also display buying guides…

      I completely agree with you about Ciao about the absence of added-value for users.
      Even if, according to Alexa, time on site (which seems to be an important factor for Panda) is higher on Ciao than any other sites included Pricerunner.

      Finally, I am not sure how a site hit by the algo can deal with your article and advice:
      -”do like Pricerunner” is the essential advice?
      -i believe the four points in bold are the major pieces of advice to use to try to recover from Panda : but don’t you think those sites (generally advanced in SEO) are already aware that they need to have “Clean modern web design”, “Proper usability and readability”, “Healthy backlink profile”, and “Valuable editorial content” to perform?

      I think this is a speech you can give to beginners in SEO but in those companies, SEO seem to be one of the most important factor to take care of.

      Thanks again for taking the time to answer and have a nice day !

    4. Leyla says:

      I believe most of these sites are just affiliate sites anyway. Not that there is anything wrong with that, unless you don’t offer any other type of value.

      Apparently, they didn’t.

    5. Hi Tad Chef,

      This article analysed the positives and negatives remarkably well. I was the Content Manager at PriceRunner UK from 2009 until, well, in two days time when I head off in to e-commerce.

      I think the other sites were down to failings that could be rectified relatively easily: i.e. not indexing every single page, and actually star providing content of use.

      I’m also inclined to believe that the strong social media campaign deployed, and the interactivity witnessed led to some search engine benefits.

      Thanks again.


    6. mike Harty says:

      This is an interesting read but I’m not entirely sure that PriceRunners lack of panda pain lies in the (relatively) modest content found on the buying guide pages. Thats not to discredit the buying guides, but that isn;t exactly stacks of Unique content.

      the clean design and relative lack of adsense probably helps. High quality backlinks, absolutely certainly.Great usability, ditto. However I think Matt’s point about social is perhaps closer to the point. Any site with a strong social emphasis is better placed to start getting wins on the internet in 2011. 20,000+ Facebook fans are proof that real people value their service. Check out the other mentioned sites on Facebook and Twitter (bar pricegrabber on Twitter) most are very modest.

      Just my 2 cents worth


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