Decorative feature graphic to accompany the post

What in the Woo?

WooCommerce recently changed their domain from to, and last week they changed it back again. 

Woo cites “challenges following the March 2024 Google Search algorithm update” as the reason for the change back. There was a “significant impact on our organic traffic”.

This is a high-profile and unusual move that is the perfect breeding ground for hot takes on Twitter. Rather than drag the project over the coals and look for the missing magic bullet, today I want to use this story as an opportunity to talk about some emerging themes in search.

The finite and infinite games of organic search

If you treat SEO as a game where your aim is to “beat” the Google algorithm as it currently stands, you fundamentally set yourself up to lose. Any gains you make will always be temporary. You’ll always be scrambling to “beat” the next update, and you’ll be building a house of cards.

Further, if search ever underwent a serious transformation – driven, for example, by major advances in AI – you’d be wildly vulnerable to having your traffic completely wiped out.

This is the paradox of SEO that I wrote about in the last issue of this newsletter: the best optimization is no optimization.

We’ve been seeing this kind of transformation across SEO in the last 18 months. Google has been rolling out update after update in an attempt to keep up with the ChatGPT-powered transformation of the internet. If you’re optimizing for this world, it’s a matter of time before you get caught out.

If, however, you’re creating content that is ever more useful, insightful, and expertise-driven, you’re playing the infinite game: you’re fundamentally aligned with Google in your aim to satisfy searcher queries as best you can. Take this path and there may be short term bumps, but you can be more bullish than ever on winning in the long term.

I am obliged to remind you that it’s people who click on search results

At the heart of all of this is the searcher: it’s easy to forget that it’s people clicking on search results. Those people are each going about their day and Googling something in order to answer a question or solve a problem. 

If those searchers don’t get what they’re expecting, then both the searcher and – by proxy – Google will be unsatisfied. This is how you can get unexpected results: people act in unpredictable ways all the time! I might be more inclined to click on a brand I’m familiar with, and I might be less inclined to click on a brand I’m less familiar with.

You see this play out in topic clusters: if I’ve had a good experience visiting a website before, I’m more inclined to come back. As a result, I might click on the 4th-ranking result instead of the 1st-ranking as you’d otherwise expect.

Where you’ve changed your brand and domain, this is also going to contribute: even if you knew you were searching for an official WooCommerce source, when you saw in your search results, you may not have realized you’d found it.

Where a user doesn’t click on a search result, Google considers this a negative user engagement signal. These can contribute to a page – or domain if it happens across enough pages – losing rank. The vast majority of Woo’s traffic is brand-match, so where there’s a mismatch you potentially have a problem.

What happens next?

I’d imagine we see WooCommerce’s search traffic recover in the coming weeks, since content on is generally helpful and in line with what Google expects.

It’s been interesting watching this unfold as an outsider: for what it’s worth, I would have been inclined to make the brand clearer in the search results and leave it a bit longer. The implications of the March update are not fully understood yet and the recovery may have happened regardless.

I’d also be looking to significantly diversify WooCommerce’s search traffic away from brand-match. An eCommerce giant like Woo should be able to introduce significant volumes of new people to the WordPress and WooCommerce ecosystems, rather than just capturing people who already know what they want.
Of course, the best way of doing this is to work with us on Content Growth, as it is for any business looking to win for the long term with organic search.

Picture of Alex Denning

Alex Denning

Alex Denning is the Founder and Managing Director of Ellipsis®, a world-class SEO Content agency. Alex is the inventor of FALCON AI®, the next-generation AI SEO platform that helps you predict how your content will perform – before you create it. Alex is an international speaker and publishes regularly on the future of SEO. @AlexDenning on Twitter