Duplicate content is a particularly difficult problem for many ecommerce web sites, especially those that are large store fronts who are not actually manufacturers themselves. Duplicate content is the term used by the SEO world, and by Google, to refer to content on your web site that is substantially the same as content appearing on another site. Remember that Google’s goal is to return the best possible results for any search query. When Google detects duplicate content its algorithm has to determine which version is the most authoritative, and which would be the best match for a particular query. All other things being equal, you are likely to lose out to a manufacturer or large, well-branded store.
For example, say you run a large online store selling a commodity like bicycle equipment. And let’s also say you carry a few thousand products, including all kinds of bikes, bike parts, bike maintenance kits and tools, clothing for bicycle enthusiasts, water bottles, lighting, and more. The first thing you do when uploading the products to your shopping cart, is to get pictures and descriptions from the manufacturers. That right there is the problem: Your competitors are uploading the very same pictures and descriptions to their sites. And, since it’s a commodity, you have numerous competitors, often including the manufacturers themselves. You all have the same content. So, how do you stand out from the herd?
Too Many Products to Write Your Own Content
Obviously, the single best way to avoid duplicate content is to publish only unique content! The biggest challenge to that, though, is how do you tackle writing new descriptions for so many products? If you were to hire someone, the cost could be overwhelming. What would be the ROI for that? You could test it, with a small subset of products. And that might suggest part of the solution.
Prioritize Your Products
The key is to prioritize your products. Don’t try to rewrite everything. Take a measured, careful, and targeted approach. Choose a subset of your products to start with. How would you put your products on a store shelf? Would they all get equal placement? Which get eye-level display and which get end caps? Which are offered at checkout? Think in those terms for your web site store as well.
Which products sell best? Which have the highest profit margin? Which do you need to move because of seasonal factors or stock changes? Which are searched for most frequently by customers and visitors to the store? Which are on promotion now? Write new content for those first. Feature these on separate pages or separate sections and link to them from your home page or other important landing pages.
Offer Something Special and Different
At the same time, you should always take a look at what your competitors are doing and then — do it better. What can you present about a product you want to move, that your customers really need to know? How can you present it better or differently than the competition or even than the manufacturer?
Use More than one Type of Content
Can you use YouTube video for specific, big-ticket items? (Even an inexpensive 2-minute video made with a Flip camera, sells product!) Do you have customer reviews or comments? (There are inexpensive 3rd party options from services like PowerReviews and BazarrVoice.) Run a contest to get customer photos and stories with your products and post the winners on the product page.
Add Great Content on non-Product Pages
Are you blogging? You should be. Feature seasonal buying guides that you can add to the site and link to from related products. Add links to useful resources, with your own brief analysis as to what makes these useful. If you write one of these a season or even one a year, it will be less expensive than tackling all your product descriptions and it will generate highly valuable and actionable analytics for the future. Partner with a content producer – a blogger for example — who can link to your site and offer discounts to his/her readers.
The key is to add value. What are your prospects looking for? What makes your site and your firm, the best in your niche? What value do you add that no one else does? Focus on that, publish videos, show your own well-optimized images, and write about it in every way you can. Start with a meaningful subset of products and tweak until you see the effects! Then, rinse and repeat.
And watch your site rise in the rankings as it becomes increasingly relevant!
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