Dealing with Duplicate Content on E-Commerce Sites

We have long said that “content is king”. But ever since Google’s “Panda” algorithm update, we need to revise this slightly, and say “unique content is king”. That’s because Google has cracked down harder than ever on duplicate content – content that is the same across multiple websites. Sometimes, this takes the form of copyrighted material, which brings its own set of dangers, but in the case of many e-commerce websites, this can be as simple as using the manufacturers descriptions for most or all of your product description pages. What used to be commonplace practice for e-commerce sites is simply not going to cut it anymore when it comes to ranking in Google for keywords related to your products.

But what am I supposed to do, re-write thousands of product descriptions?

Well, yes and no. Ultimately, re-writing your product descriptions would be the best course of action, and we have some ideas below on how to go about doing that, and what kinds of content you could include. But barring that, it’s not absolutely essential that you remove every last bit of duplicate content in your descriptions (many products have a list of specifications, for example, and it’s hard to rewrite those). You just need to find a way to add enough unique content to the page to over-shadow the duplicate text.

User-Generated Content

A great way to add unique content to your site is by getting other people to do it for you. User Generated Content is exactly that – content on your site that is generated by your users. For e-commerce sites, this usually takes the form of product reviews.

The trick is in getting people to review the products they purchase, since most people who are satisfied with a product or service tend to be silent. Generic newsletter-style emails sent to your customers asking them to write a review don’t tend to work. So after some period of time following a purchase, email the customer and ask them for a review, being specific about the product that they purchased, and where they can go to leave the review. There are some remarketing/retargeting software packages that can help with this as well.

Also, you can grab your customer feedback from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and post those on your product pages as well.

Okay, so how do I re-write my product descriptions?

If you find that user-generated content like reviews is not enough, or you’re having difficulty getting your users to buy-in, you might need to bite the bullet and re-write your product descriptions. But is it just a matter of changing a few words here and there, or should you completely start over?

Think of this more like “what can I do to add value for my customers”? If you’re adding value that you think your customers will appreciate, then you’re well on your way to creating content that Google will appreciate as well. Here are some possibilities to get you thinking in the right direction:

How Is The Product Used?

Offer helpful advice on how the product is used. What about alternative uses? What are some different ways that customers have used the product in the past?

Tips and Tricks – go beyond the directions

Can you post your own instructions or advice on getting the most out of the product? Offer some tips and tricks that will help the user to get up to speed faster.

History of the Product / More Information on the Manufacturer

Does your product have an interesting backstory? What made you offer the product on your site? What is better about this product vs. a different product? Give some background on the manufacturer that the user may find interesting or informative.

Info on and links to similar products

Perhaps the user decides they don’t want this product, but they do want something similar. Offer an easy path to get to similar products, to make it easier for the user to browse. What aspects of this product make it unique and different from other products available on the site, or at other sites?

Comparisons to similar products / models

A helpful comparison can go a long way toward making the user feel like they are getting the best product for them and their situation. Offer comparisons of similar products or models so the user understands what they are getting, and why.

Add additional pictures

A single picture of the front of the product sometimes isn’t enough, depending on what you’re selling. When I’m at a store, I like to pick up the display model and turn it around in my hands, but you can’t do that online. So offer pictures that get me closer to that feeling of holding the product. Seeing the product next to objects that give you a frame of reference for size can really help, as can pictures of the back and sides of the product. What about close-ups, especially if the product has writing or dials, etc.? Although this doesn’t add text content, it’s still unique, and can be a big conversion-enhancer.

Product review videos / How-to videos

Having a video review definitely helps increase conversions. If you can do a quick video review, and then transcribe the audio into text, viola! Instant content for your product pages.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Although re-writing product descriptions, or emailing past customers for reviews, all seem like daunting tasks, don’t let the idea of re-writing thousands of products keep you, and your website, standing still. Review your Analytics and figure out what products generate the most traffic, revenue, and profits, and start there. Add a comparison here, a how-to there, some tips and tricks over there, and you’ll be on your way. Google is looking for informative, unique, helpful product pages that keep users’ attention and convert, and you can’t afford to sit idly by and watch your ranks and traffic drop, while your competitors are giving Google (and their customers) what they want.

Additionally, all of these ideas are likely to increase your conversion rate as well, so you have that as an added benefit and incentive to take the first step.

Happy selling!

Photo by woodleywonderworks – http://www.flickr.com/people/wwworks/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/6305470569/

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