Search engine optimization is an evolving practice that is dependent upon understanding the dynamics of third party algorithms that makes all judgment on who is the “authority” for a user query. Google plays this role especially well and when Google relays to users how they can help play a role in rendering more quality search results for the internet, it is in the best interests for webmasters to take notice and react accordingly.
One of Google’s interests and messages to webmasters is to eliminate the “duplicates” of the internet so their interpretation and indexing of quality websites is enhanced. A search engine’s primary goal is to deliver both quality and useful results to web users when they search. Because they are interested in the user coming back again and again for quality results, they know that duplicates litter the field, and ultimately make their job harder in presenting quality options.
As the owner of a web property or a manager of an internet business, you need to ensure that your website is doing everything it can to eliminate duplicate content on your domain. Doing so can make your website rendered more often within Google search results, drive a more efficient and productive “crawl” on your domain, and make your indexed pages ultimately more effective.
Let’s examine two of the most typical instances for which a webmaster can knowingly or unknowingly have duplicate content within an eCommerce environment.
Product descriptions from the manufacturer
A typical mistake that many eCommerce businesses make is that they re-publish the exact product descriptions that are provided by product manufacturers. By having the same product copy as other retailers at the product page level of a website, a business essentially sets their product pages up to fail for longer tail queries.
Because the business is using the same product descriptions as the competition, search algorithms have a difficult time determining which domain should be ranked highest for a query and usually devalues the group with duplicate content.
A tactic to fix this potential issue is to make slight changes to the sentence structure within all of your product descriptions as well as “beef up” the content for each product with an additional 3 sentences of copy. Be sure to conduct proper keyword research at the time of writing to appropriately target the most prominent 3, 4, and 5 word queries for the product or category.
Attribute based filtering pages
Within progressive eCommerce platforms, users have the ability to conduct “parametric navigation” – i.e. the refinement of browsing via product variables such as price, color, material, sale or clearance, etc. This is great for the user experience but can be a nightmare for search engines as they index a variety of pages/URL’s that are essentially the same and have really no difference in terms of content.
As a real life client example, we are engaged with a large multi-channel retailer with revenues exceeding 300mm dollars. Because of their complex ecommerce system searching capabilities, they have a plethora of paths for one can find a product. The problem is each path creates a distinct url for the product page.
After our analysis, we discovered that in many instances a single product page had 27 or more different variations in Google. This not only makes Google waste time in crawling all these pages (they could be crawling other more productive areas of the site), it also dilutes the pagerank for this page which can lead to lower rankings. This is an obvious area that can be improved as it relates to duplicate content.
In part two of this series will discuss solutions to defeat duplicate content and how you can eliminate this within your website or ecommerce store.