Duplicate content issues can seriously damage your SEO efforts. Especially in eCommerce websites, the chances of having duplicated pages are big. The reason is that online shops publish a huge amount of content – product descriptions, images, videos, user guides, etc.
Most of the duplicated pages in eCommerce platforms actually come from product descriptions because they are reused by different sellers. Think about it – you need to describe a product that many other retailers sell as well. And usually, the product descriptions are provided by the manufacturer. You end up having the same product description as your competitors. Resulting in duplicate content.
The best way to get rid of your duplicate pages is to put in extra effort and write unique product descriptions. This can be quite challenging considering that you might have hundreds of pages, but it’s worth it.
Apart from writing unique content, there are more strategies you can apply. Curious to learn what they are? Keep reading and by the end of the article you learn about more ways how to handle duplicate content for higher ranking.
What Is Duplicate Content and Why You Should Avoid It?
Before we continue with the tips let’s first make sure we are on the same page on what if duplicated content. Google gives the following explication:
“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar.”
However not all the duplicate content could damage your SEO performance. Google gives a few examples of non-malicious content and they are:
- Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
- Store items are shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
- Printer-only versions of web pages
Now when we know what exactly is duplicated content, let’s answer the question of what issues you might have if you don’t clean your duplicate pages:
- Search engines get confused about which version of the page should be included or excluded from their index.
- They are not able to distinguish which is the best version to rank when a user types a query.
As you can see if you don’t optimize your eCommerce pages for SEO you are losing out on opportunities and this will lead to lower search rankings, bad user experience and no traffic.
Now let’s move to practical techniques to tackle the duplicated content pages of your eCommerce website.
Related article: Website SEO Checklist for New WordPress Online Store
Ecommerce Strategies to Handle Duplicate Content
1. Create Unique Pages Where Possible
We slightly mentioned the importance of writing unique product descriptions of your pages. Now we are going to discuss in more detail how you can improve your product description pages.
It’s quite common to write the same product description as it was described by the manufacturer. The tricky part is that you can’t be quite as creative as there are certain features of the product you can’t change. You can’t write a unique copy for the product size, material or color for instance.
The solution is to rewrite the descriptions without changing the most important features of the product. You can include a few of the keywords you want your brand to rank for if this is applicable. It’s a time-consuming process but it will increase your rankings.
Let’s see an example of the same product available in different websites with a completely different product description.
We see women’s training shoes by Nike. They have quite a simple description of the basic features of the shoes and the color.
The same shoes we can find in one of the most popular online shops Asos:
It’s completely different. You have included more features, in addition, info about the brand and how to take care of the shoes.
Creative and unique copy should go hand in hand with high-quality photos that show the product in the best light. If you have video even better as it will highlight the product to your clients.
A bonus is to include social proof signs and ratings which will be invaluable information for your customers as they will see if other people have enjoyed the product and its qualities.
2. Avoid Duplicate Content Across Categories and Clean Your URLs
Online shops are organized in product categories. What exactly happens with product categories and how the search engines crawl them?
When you can different product categories the CMS system you’ve to build your website generates a unique URL for each category. If you enter in an online shop and you search for a specific fiction book you will probably follow these paths:
Home -> Books -> Fiction
Home -> Fiction -> Books
The problem comes once the unique URL is generated for each path because this results in a duplicated URL. Some sites even create up to ten URLs for every single product which generates even more duplicated pages. This is a problem. Especially if your competitor has optimized its category pages and doesn’t have ten links for one product, their site will rank better in Google.
And even more. Google won’t crawl and index your pages because the search engine will classify your pages as duplicated content. And then you will be missing out on opportunities, all because URLs that are not optimized and won’t be included in Google’s index.
How to fix that? You can use canonical tags and add a field for each product that allows you to assign a canonical URL.
Take a look at the following examples:
At first you might think it’s not a big deal and think these URLs are the same. But for search engines they are all duplicate content. What you need to do is to establish a preferred domain with Google Webmaster Tools. Once you set your preferred URL Google will prioritise it so it will limit your duplicate content issues.
In addition to that you need to make sure your internal links on your website maintain consistency. For the product pages for eCommerce shops this is even more important. Because there you have hundreds of product pages and categories.
The category part is a bit tricky. If you have shop.websitexample.com for a product page and then www.websitexample.com there is a SEO issue. Once you establish your preferred domain this is where all your links will go to.
3. Optimize Sitemaps, Robots.txt, and Internal Links
These three elements are the fundamentals of your Google indexation. They are applicable not only for eCommerce websites but for all types of websites. Let’s go through them one by one.
An eCommerce website is made from many pages – the shopping cart or checkout page, the confirmation page, information, the FAQ section, product guides and much more. As you surely care about your customers’ experience as they navigate through your website, you also need to make sure that the search engines will have similar experience. If you want to rank higher for your pages you need to make sure search engines can navigate easily through your website.
Sitemap is a map of your website’s content and a way your pages communicate with the search engines. They alert them in case of any new, updated or changed content very quickly. If you’ve optimized your content pages and have a sitemap, it will help for a faster indexation.
If you don’t know how to create a XML sitemap, there are some CMS platforms that can auto generate it. If you run your online store on WordPress you could use the Yoast SEO plugin which can do the job.
This is another obligatory element for your SEO. Search engines use robots, also known as crawlers to search content across the web and index it in their database. The robots.txt file is important because this is the way to tell search engines which part of your website should not be crawled or indexed.
Without a robots.txt file you risk your website to stay completely open for search engines. This itn’s good. You might have outdated content or just pages that no need to be indexed. That’s why you exclude them from being crawled.
You need to make sure your robots.txt file functions properly and isn’t blocking Google from any parts of your website that need to be indexed. Also if you have pages that you don’t want to be indexed by Google, you can exclude them from indexation with the robots.txt file.
For an eCommerce website internal linking is essential. By offering more similar or complementary products to your customers you cross-sell your items and increase your revenue. Product descriptions are the best way to link products one with another.
A good internal links structure is a must for your indexation. Every page you want to get indexed should be reachable from at least one link on your website. This is also good for the user experience as your website visitors will be directed to different products while they are browsing your website.
As you can see the damage to the duplicate pages in your eCommerce platform can be huge. This is the content that your website not only presents to your customers, but also to search engines. And as we’ve discussed previously, search engines don’t rank duplicate content higher.
Having duplicate product description pages could seriously impact your revenue. As your website won’t rank well in searches, instead it will have low traffic and no sales.