What is duplicate content? 3 top tips for ecommerce merchants
Writing content for an ecommerce store is a lengthy task, especially when it comes to ensuring it’s primed and ready for search engines. One SEO issue that many merchants may not think of right away is duplicate content, and how it can impact your store’s search ranking.
What is duplicate content?
To use Google’s own definition, duplicate content “generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content in the same language or are appreciably similar”. This is especially common with ecommerce stores which sell products from other brands or manufacturers, for example marketplaces for specialist foods, or clothing retailers.
The good news is that you won’t be actively penalized by Google for duplicate content. The bad news is that it can still harm your ranking in search results. That’s because if Google finds that content somewhere else first, it will be seen as the original page and therefore the better page to rank. Equally if the duplicate content is from your own site, it may harm the ranking of other pages that share the same content. For example, a product description copied and pasted for similar products on your store.
So, let’s take a look at three really easy ways you can avoid duplicate content on your store.
How to avoid duplicate content in ecommerce
#1 - Write unique, detailed product descriptions, even for similar products
Your product pages are some of the most important on your site, so you want to ensure they’re given every chance possible to rank highly in search results. In order to avoid duplicate content on these pages, you should ensure each has a unique product description that covers all the details a customer will want to know.
That may be easier said than done, however. Especially for stores who sell one primary product with different variants. In these instances, you need to get a little creative with your description - describe the color, the material, pattern, any unique features etc. Similar content is fine, but duplicate isn’t.
Let’s take a look at an example from Homesick:
Homesick’s primary product is soy wax candles. While they have different scents and labels, at the end of the day they’re all soy wax candles. That could make it difficult to write unique descriptions for every product, so instead they focus on the key differences between products. Those differences being the inspiration for the candle, and the scent notes. They use the same bullet points to describe the materials and features, however every product has its own unique description so they’re different enough.
#2 - Don’t copy and paste manufacturer descriptions on product pages
As well as writing unique descriptions, you should also avoid copying and pasting manufacturer provided information to your product pages. That’s because search engines will be able to recognize that not only is the content not unique, but it’s also not original. They’ll prioritize the original content, which can harm your page’s ranking.
If the manufacturer description contains important details about the product that you want to include on your page, then you should find a way to rework those details in an original way. In other words, highlight the key details that will be valuable to your customers and format the information using your own words and styling. For example, if you sell international snacks, rather than simply copying and pasting the original description from the manufacturer, you should come up with your own description. Then, bullet point any of the important details such as ingredients, nutritional information, packet size etc.
The above example is for a bag of chips from Japan sold on Bokksu’s marketplace. Rather than copying and pasting the description from the original manufacturer, they’ve focused on explaining the product and including the key manufacturer details underneath. This ensures they have original content, while also giving customers vital information about allergens and product origins.
#3 - Maintain consistent internal linking
Internal linking is a great practice, as it tells search engines how to index your site by showing them how your pages all link together. However, there can often be more than one version of a link. A very common way this happens is what’s called a trailing slash. Here are two URLs:
Notice the difference? That slash on the first example can sometimes cause the page to be considered duplicate, as there are two URLs. This can confuse search engines, and they may try to index both as their own pages. The best way to avoid this is to decide on the canonical - or original - link structure, and stick to that whenever it’s linked internally. Often it’s as simple as having a rule across your site that when someone on your team adds an internal link, the canonical link is always without the trailing slash.
SEO is a great way to help more customers discover your store, however it’s also a very broad topic. By understanding how small things like duplicate content can impact your store, you can ensure you avoid them and maximize your search ranking.