Some SEO issues are so obvious they don’t need to be talked about. So simple that nobody – surely – could get it wrong. It shouldn’t have to be said but people still need to be told to Stop Using Manufacturers Product Descriptions on their ecommerce sites.
You haven’t got to to go far to read how the biggest faux-pas in content SEO is duplication. Most heinously, duplication of content found on other sites around the web is guaranteed to land your website in the sin-bin. Yet every other e-commerce website out there is running the exact same product descriptions that their competitors are.
Why does it happen? It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of products on your e-commerce site, you’ve got to somehow add descriptions for each. Then you realize your suppliers have given you an easy way out. Just copy the descriptions from their digital catalog into your own!
DON’T COPY THOSE DESCRIPTIONS!
Leaving aside the potential copyright issues, many suppliers with even half a brain discourage their customers from using their basic product descriptions. They realize the duplicate content runs the risk of hurting their online interests.
If you’ve got half a brain, you’ll have also realized that the copied descriptions guarantee your own website an even worse fate.
Yet over and over I see it happening, copy-pasting of content from one e-commerce website to the next.
Stop using manufacturers product descriptions, boost your e-commerce SEO
It’s easy, simply stop using your manufacturers product descriptions and you’ll give a free boost to your ecommerce SEO.
When I say easy, I mean it doesn’t take much thinking about. If you’ve got a few thousand products, it’s going to take some grunt-work.
If you simply re-write your product descriptions so they are 100% unique content, you hand yourself a potential big SEO win. About half the competition are out there running duplicate content against each other. You can beat them with ease! You’ve also got potential advantages to look forward to if you use SEM platforms such as Google Shopping.
It can be difficult, much of what describes a product is simply factual. Try describing a spoon in an imaginative way. 😉
Avoid Content Duplication Within Your Own E-commerce Site
When you have many products that are alike, it can be hard to describe each separately. A good strategy is to list sub-variants of the same product as ordering options. Ideally this is a ‘master’ product with options that can be selected by the customer as it is added to their basket.
I’ll grant you, this is difficult. Major search engines now seem to expect some level of duplication on e-commerce sites. The best policy is to reduce or avoid duplicate product descriptions wherever possible.
Likewise, ensuring canonical versions of each product helps to avoid penalties for duplication when products appear in multiple categories.
Don’t mess up your own SEO
One of my clients, despite warnings, managed to smash their own SEO.
I’d hammered home the message as much as I could that product descriptions (and titles) should be unique on their e-commerce property. I’d spent some months rewriting many of their product descriptions, improving their rankings. Things were looking good.
Yet, one day, to my horror, I discovered straight-forward duplicate titles and descriptions on Amazon and Ebay. I did a double take. How was I going to protect my client and remove this maliciously copied content?
Then the truth dawned, I was looking at my clients own Amazon and Ebay accounts. They’d cut-and-pasted their own content from their own e-commerce website into two of the biggest ecommerce sites on the internet. Now, Google is generally good at identifying original content and not ranking duplicated content above the original. However, the damage on Google Shopping was near immediate.
Don’t fight the big guys when you don’t have to
Ebay adds a proportion of their products to Google Shopping. Lo-and-behold, my client’s products were right there in Google Shopping from both Ebay and their own Google Shopping account. Forced to now bid against Ebay for clicks, they were effectively now bidding against themselves. Their ranking was poor either way. The damage was done.
The Amazon listings caused less immediate damage. Amazon does not use Google Shopping but they tend to rank well in SERPs. To add insult to injury, Amazon adopted our product description as the canonical description for a given product. This meant that anyone else listing that product on Amazon would use the same description.
I had a long telephone call with the client. It can be hard to explain to the non-SEO-literate how grave the risks are in duplicating your own content. Believe me though, it’s a lot easier than fixing the mess after the damage has been done.