Duplicate Content on eCommerce Websites

Published November 1, 2011 by ReferralCandy+ in SEO

Whether due to negligence or corner-cutting, duplicate content hurts your SEO. Let’s talk about the different ways in which it happens, and how to deal with each of them.

There are three kinds of content that need addressing: Editorial content, Product content and Internal content.

1. Duplicate Editorial Content

Blog posts, articles, FAQ pages, customer service content, and even boilerplate content like privacy policy and TOS pages – anything that’s non-product, non-shopping.

It’s important that this content exists only on your website. It’s okay to occasionally reprint and republish content from websites (with proper permission), but this should be a minimum – only when absolutely necessary – and ideally less 10% of all your content.

Google wants to serve search results that link to original unique content, not 10 versions of the same content.

If you have content that you want on your website but it already exists elsewhere, don’t just copy it. Rewrite it, update it, improve it, give it a new editorial view. Add your own value to the mix.

If you absolutely have to reuse content that exists elsewhere, and you can’t change it, block it from the search engines using robots.txt or the noindex meta tag.

2. Duplicate Product Content

If you are getting a product feed from a distributor, getting product specifications from a vendor, or just selling the same products as everyone else, there is a good chance that you have duplicate product pages.

SIMPLE CHECK: Select six to seven words from some of your products (don’t choose a set of words with punctuation or special characters). Put the words in quotes and perform a search on Google. If you get back any results other than your website, this is probably considered duplicate content by the search engines.

If a significant percentage of your content is duplicate, you’re probably not going to rank for those products.

Start with your most important products first, and rewrite the descriptions to be unique. For products where it isn’t cost effective to rewrite the content, use a noindex meta tag, customers will still be able to purchase the item, it just won’t show up in the search engine index.

3. Duplicate Internal Content

Duplicate internal content can be one of the easiest ways site owners shoot themselves in the foot. Maybe it’s the CMS or shopping platform, but having the same product/information on more than one URL is a recipe for trouble. Another big source for this type of problem is the marketing or advertising departments adding tracking parameters to URLs. For example search engines have problems when they see URLs like this:

example.com/prod-name/?utm_source=twittercamp564
example.com/prod-name/?utm_source=facebookmothersday
example.com/prod-name/?utm_source=rssfeed

If all three of those URLs return the same product page Google will have to guess which one is correct. You can use the canonical tag or webmaster central to tell Google the correct URL and which parameters to ignore, but really this is a workaround and not recommended.

The less you leave up to a search engine to “figure out” or “guess” the more certain you will be of the end result. If you have to use parameters, try using the hashtag implementation

example.com/prod-name/#utm_source=rssfeed

It’s not perfect, but it reduces the “guessing” that the search engine has to do.

In Summary:

  • Make sure your site has little to no duplicate editorial content. Rewrite, revise, update or block any existing duplicate content.
  • Check your product pages and descriptions for duplication, starting with the most important products, rewrite and eliminate duplication.
  • Be on the lookout for duplicate URLs created by your CMS, shopping cart software, or internal business divisions. If the information is mission critical, use hashtags.

Image credit: Shutterstock/Mast3r

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