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Seller Exposes Google Doorway Pages that Siphon Etsy Traffic

Google has once again been exploited by scammers using doorway pages to drive shoppers to their websites. A website with the country code for Peru has scraped Etsy listings in order to get exposure in Google search results, and it’s redirecting would-be shoppers to a site registered in China selling unrelated items.

An Etsy seller noticed the pattern Friday afternoon by chance – he was Googling his shop name as part of routine marketing research. He explained the problem on an Etsy discussion board.

Many sellers remained unclear about how it was happening and who was at fault for siphoning traffic away from their Etsy shops. “Sellers are stumped,” one seller told EcommerceBytes on Sunday – and the comments they left on the board showed they were also upset at the prospect of losing sales.

The incident is embarrassing to Google, first for allowing a site with stolen Etsy content to appear in its search results, and then for allowing that site to redirect traffic to another site. It’s not the first time the search engine has been publicly embarrassed by a doorway attack on a major scale.

In his book about Google, “The Search,” John Battelle wrote about a story we broke in 2003 about an eBay affiliate who used doorway pages to trick Google into sending traffic to eBay, which richly rewarded him under its affiliate program.

Battelle noted that after EcommerceBytes broke the story, Google quickly took action and banned Goodrich’s site from its index.

Doorway pages are known in the highly competitive world of Search Engine Optimization as “black hat” techniques that are prohibited by Google. In this instance, the website proveelealestado.com.pe displays Etsy listings that look identical to the real Etsy website (you can see them in the Google cache).

But when a shopper clicks on the link in Google search results, they’re taken to cases2015.com that offers cell phone cases for sale.

The original seller started the thread about his findings on April 10th at 1:03 pm EDT. A day later, April 11 at 1:04 PM EDT and after ten pages of comments, an Etsy moderator said she would pass along the information to her team, and advised the seller to “report the error” on Google.

The next day at 11:35 am, another Etsy moderator wrote, “This does appear to be a Google issue, and they are aware. They issued a resolution not long after it was first reported, but they may be experiencing further trouble. We are not privy to their internal processes, so we do not know the exact state of the issue. We will leave this thread open for sellers to use to communicate and track developments.”

It’s not clear when Etsy notified Google of the problem that was first reported on Friday afternoon. As of Sunday evening, the doorway pages were still active.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.