Does Google Hate Authentic Vintage?

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Online ecommerce shops are in an uproar, and rightly so, over the unfair high ranking on Google for sites that pay for Google ads. You would think it logical that they would rank high on Google Shopping, but the unfair part is that they rank higher on the regular search engine. Quite the monopoly no?

In fact, the European Anti-Trust Union has filed a complaint against Google. So how does this affect vintage dealers?

EcommerceBytes, a site I highly recommend if you are an ecommerce site, published a letter from a concerned vintage etailer.

We belong to a group of small sellers that deal in vintage clothing and there’s been extensive conversation about an immediate drop in sales for all of us that occurred simultaneously with a major Google algorithm release last year. The drop in sales appears to be correlated to highly reduced visibility for authentic vintage offered by small sellers.
Searches for vintage now yield either “vintage style”, “vintage inspired” or reproduction vintage that is mass produced by larger manufacturers who can afford to fund Google results. For instance, a search for “vintage dress”, aside from Etsy, yields only reproduction vintage websites on the first page of results.
So I decided to do a bit of keyword research.
Keyword search tool results for vintage dress

Keyword Search tool

I did a general search for the keyword phrase “vintage dress” and the above results is what I got. You can see that searches did fall significantly between April last year and December. Which is when dealers were noticing a big drop in sales.

keywords for vintage clothing
I then did an ad group search for vintage dress and found the above keyword phrases. Interestingly, vintage clothing is the highest searched keyword phrase in the group of ad words, with the highest competition.
So I followed up with a Google search for, you guessed it, “vintage clothing”.
Results:
1. sponsored sites were above the fold
2. local vintage shops were listed next
3. Nasty Gal vintage page, Etsy’s vintage clothing, and Levi’s vintage clothing (in that order) followed
4. Google News related to vintage was next
5. one local vintage shop, one vintage fair, and vintage inspired stores followed that
6. authentic vintage sites did not show up until page 3
I’m not sure what this all proves, but here are my takeaways.
  • it makes sense that Google would want to sell sponsored posts – as long as it is clearly marked as law requires
  • the top ranking pages (NastyGal, Etsy, and Levis) make sense. They are huge sites with huge following. Google is all about popularity and organic traffic.
  • the local vintage shop that showed up on page 2 makes sense because Google is keeping track of my geography
  • the vintage fair also made sense because the first piece of content said “vintage clothing” and it’s a long running vintage fair (longevity)

As vintage dealers, we need to start understanding that content and its corresponding traffic is king. When your content isn’t sufficient, then branding and brand loyalty are going to have to be just as spot on.

For many years, I was on page 1 of Google for the key term “vintage blog”. I was blogging several times a week. I have also been blogging under Debutante Clothing since 2005. Lots of good, keyword rich content and longevity were enough to stay at page 1. Since then, Google has also added a popularity factor aka brand loyalty. And it makes senses. So many were keyword stuffing and doing all kinds of funky stuff to rank high on Google. What Google wants is relevance. My site did take a huge dip in part to the new algorithm but mostly because I took a long hiatus from Debutante Clothing.

I feel that as long as Google is transparent about which sites are on top because they have paid for prime placement and which are sites are really worthy of being front and center, all’s fair. We’ll see how the UK complaint plays out.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences! Comment below.

2 thoughts on “Does Google Hate Authentic Vintage?

  1. Sandra, brilliant piece. Your analysis is spot on! While we have the Internet’s largest collection of genuine, unworn vintage footwear, we’ve typically languished on Google’s Page 2 or further back. Some of that fault is certainly ours as we haven’t leveraged social media nearly as well as we should. That said, we know when we’ve moved up a notch or two because we get a flood of “We can help you land on Google’s Page 1” e-mails from various vendors.

    It’s always hard to argue with the success of the 8-billion pound gorilla called Google. That said, I’ve never liked their premise that “links” count as favorable votes that somehow represents quality or authority. With vintage, it certainly doesn’t equate to authenticity. Google’s history of constantly changing their ranking algorithms has given the term “frenemy” new levels of meaning. Now they’re migrating to “research” that reflects the authoritative quality and relevance of a site. I find it hard to square that approach with their “Don’t be evil” corporate slogan. Having grown up in the retail business, caveat emptor is still the best advice one can be given.

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