Saturday, March 27, 2010

Etsy vs Google...What went wrong?

If you've spent any time in the Etsy forums within the last week you will likely have noticed that there is a huge uproar amongst a sizeable segment of the seller community.  It seems that as of March 8 2010 many shops noticed a sudden and drastic drop in both sales and views.  At first many, including myself, attributed the drop to the regular ups and down of selling on Etsy. But then the forum posts started. Namely this one, started by peaseblossomstudios. Suddenly sellers were coming out of the woodwork with concerns about low views and stagnant sales. What was very concerning to many was that these weren't novice sellers, these were big time veteran Etsians with hundreds and even thousands of sales under their belts. People were listing and relisting and getting 1 or 2 views in 24 hours. Absolutely abnormal for sellers of this calibre. What is more, people couldn't find their shops or items on Google. Where sellers were once easily found on page 1 or 2 of Google search results, they were unable to be found anywhere on Google! Some sellers panicked and began a mass exodus, opening shops on Etsy's newest competitor Zibbet causing that site to crash under the influx of new traffic. As I write this, Zibbet is still inaccessible due to technical maintenance.
After several days of silence on the part of Etsy Admin they tossed us a bone and indicated that there may have been a problem caused by the third party tracking program, Dopple, that had been installed earlier in the year when Etsy co-founder Rob Kalin returned to Etsy. Dopple is his latest project and was part of the package deal of him returning to Etsy as CEO. Dopple is a program similar to Google Analytics in that it runs in the background of the site and tracks traffic and site usage. Ordinarily, this would be fine but it appears as though the program was improperly installed, or buggy, and this caused problems with Google. Google does not like third party programs that aren't installed properly and will penalize the site using them in search results. According to Indec, an engineer at Etsy the problem was with a bug in Dopple
      "We just made a code change to fully remove the Dopple Analytics code from the site.
                   We had the code "switched off", but a bug in that switch-off logic meant that Dopple was still being included on about 1% of requests for pages (at random across all pages and all users).

Thanks to the members who reported the problem - especially cindylouwho2 for a useful screenshot. It was a rather obscure and frustrating problem, and it took us rather longer to track it down that we'd have liked, for which we aologize. "
Why so many shops noticed the dramatic decline in traffic on the 8th of March is still a question that remains unanswered, as Etsy contends that the bug in Dopple shouldn't have interfered with Google search results, and insists that Google traffic to the site has remained steady. This statement is hard to reconcile with the data sellers are seeing in their personal Analytics. It remains to be seen whether or not there is more to this story.


Awesomeness said...

Wow, what a stupid snafu. Good thing they started working on it before y'all had to knit up some protest signs. :D

Stitches In Time said...

ROFL Awesomness, I thought I recognized that snark!