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Forward > Blog > Google Zebra: Ecommerce or Social Network?
posted by Ryan Magallanes

Google Zebra: Ecommerce or Social Network?

28 June 2013

Google Zebra

We have been hearing many rumors about a mythical creature called Google Zebra. We know how it looks like but nobody is sure yet of what its impact is going to be. Google Zebra created a fuss in online communities, spreading fear among internet savvies and is now considered a threat (though its existence is not yet confirmed). In the fascinating pseudoscience of SEO Cryptozoology, two of what used to be considered as cryptids, are now known to all SEOs alike. Google Panda and Google Penguin are living and breathing algorithms that comfortably dwell in their online habitat, stirring the lives of SEO experts in the Philippines, among others in the world, who are persistent in trying to tame them. Will the speculated new creature be part of their online ecosystem?

And here comes Google Zebra

For SEO specialists and online business owners, especially merchants, Google updates can either mean traffic or no traffic, sales or no sales. With Panda and Penguin algorithms being on the frontline, SEOs alike can only suspect and anticipate more upcoming updates. Today, we can only hope that this Zebra update will remain in its current state as a rumor or fear-mongering supposition; but then, if it will materialize, let’s just hope that we can cope with its yet unknown powers.

Although as of today, there is no tangible fact about Google Zebra (since there is no official word from Google as of writing), it is still safe to revolve your optimization strategies and methods around Panda and Penguin. But Google’s head of Webspam Team, Matt Cutts announced at SXSW in Austin, Texas, that they “…have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.”


Which is which?

After Cutts’ declaration, people jumped into a conclusion that Panda is for content, Penguin is for link building and Zebra is for user experience with merchants. A number of speculations are swarming the internet community right now; some people think that Google is planning on putting a big weight on user reviews to segregate good companies from bad ones. To do that, they could potentially create an algorithm that would interpret customer reviews from various sources on the internet. Google also published Search Quality Guidelines earlier this year which gives us a hint that they are looking for quality merchants. Although Google stated that merchants do not need to comply with everything, it is still advisable that you have the following:

  • A “view your shopping cart” link that stays on the same site.
  • A shopping cart that updates when you add items to it.
  • A return policy with a physical address.
  • A shipping charge calculator that works.
  • A “wish list” link or a link to postpone the purchase of an item until later.
  • A way to track FedEx orders.
  • A user forum that works.
  • The ability to register or login.
  • A gift registry that works.


However, without Google giving out official statement, there will always be never-ending theories and assumptions. Some experts have come up with a list of the factors they think Google Zebra will likely be targeting.  According to a panel of researchers known as Web Marketing Group, Panda targets on-site elements, Penguin focuses more on off-site activities, and Zebra might concentrate on social networks. They also quoted that having too many Twitter tweets, Facebook or Google+ updates that are extensively shared by people not related to your industry can mess up your ranking.

So, which is which? Is the Zebra update all about merchant rankings or social integrity? Most articles you will find on the internet about Google Zebra have relatively small to no facts at all to back them up. As such, we can probably assume that since there is no announcement from Google about this update yet, it is better to stick to your knowledge.

Whether Google Zebra is out there in the wild, or is just a thing of imagination, bottom-line is that eCommerce sites must adhere to their industries’ best practices that benefit their consumers. Having a well-built and fully functional eCommerce site is the foundation of eCommerce success.


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