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Afraid Of Publishing 'legitimate' Duplicate Content


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16 replies to this topic

Poll: Should you index your poten tially duplicate but totally legitimate product descriptions? (8 member(s) have cast votes)

Should you index your potentially duplicate but totally legitimate product descriptions?

  1. Ofcourse yes, bring on more traffic! (3 votes [37.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

  2. No because Google hates you and you'd rather have some traffic than none.. (5 votes [62.50%])

    Percentage of vote: 62.50%

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#1 keywordman

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:04 PM

I'm working with a large retailer who sell products sold online by many other equally sized and smaller retailers...

The products they sell come with a product description which is provided by the distributor, so every other online seller has the same description.

Because they fear Google, they are using robots = noindex on all their product pages, which to me is a MASSIVE missed opportunity and unneccesary act done only for Google.

Having explained to them:

1 - It's a legitimate use, which Google have to acknowledge and can't mark them down for.
2 - By noindexing they're missing an opportunity to have those pages bring traffic.
3 - They're making their site seem smaller (Larger sites are more credible right?)
4 - If Google do 'detect duplicate content' it will merely be out-ranked by somebody else, but not hurt their site overall.
5 - If they are black marked for something Google will tell them via webmaster tools unless it's something hugely spammy.
6 - they are adding unique content (reviews) to the pages which could help them outrank their competitors who publish the same descriptions if they would just publish the pages!

Their in-house SEO experts, aside from being chicken, think that blocking Google from seeing all their product is 'white hat', I see it as really pointlessly daft.

They're also afraid if they did suddenly publish all the products that Google would freak out and block them some more.


I'd love to hear what your views are, I feel like I'm going insane, since when was blocking google from seeing all your products an SEO tactic to try and improve your seo?!?!? girl_cray2.gif girl_cray2.gif censored.gif

#2 Jill

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:21 PM

You are correct, they are dumb. smile.gif

There's no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.

#3 copywriter

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:18 PM

Since Panda first kicked off a lot of ecommerce websites got slapped for the same reasons many article directory sites did: not enough originality among other things. But there are ways to beef up the product pages so that Google will find them useful and - more importantly - so will the site visitors.

Even if you push Google out of the equation, it is not helpful to the site visitor to click to page after page and get the exact same information on every website. As a business strategy (not an SEO strategy) you need to make clear why customers should buy from your client's site as opposed to the thousands of other companies that are selling these exact same products.

* Add reviews to the pages
* Pull in your Twitter or Facebook feed
* Post snippets of blog posts on applicable pages
* Create "how to use" information for the products or categories of products
* Offer webinars or teleclasses or videos for the products

There are all sorts of ways to be different and far more valuable than your competition while also scratching Google's back.



#4 clandestino

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 05:37 AM

The issue, considering what we know today, is that Google may mistake this site for a scraper site and they will become collateral damage in Google's war on affiliates and (now it seems ) SEO's. It's not worth the risk. I have read many accounts of sites that were hit by Panda and they believe that duplicate content or thin content most likely was the cause -- Google won't tell you.

Keep in mind that everyone else that carries those products will very likely use the same product descriptions and possibly 1,000's of affiliates from Amazon, etc. I don't think it's a good idea to ever send signals that you are like 1000's of affiliates.

I believe that solving this problem sets you apart from the low-end sites that don't add value (in Google's opinion) and is insurance against Panda and the many variations of that update that will follow -- they don't seem to want to quit. If this was about content farms, they would have been done long ago. I think there's another purpose (a subject for another post), and they're not going to stop for quite a while.

I believe the problem the client is expressing is that the cures for this problem are time consuming and expensive if they have a large site, say 20,000 pages. The possible cures are --

1) Re-write the content.
1) Include the product descriptions in an image file (this will increase the thin content issue, though).
2) Trust Google that they will reccognize it for what it is -- honest duplicate content. Yeah, right. I trust the IRS too, LOL! They're here to help us, right?
3) Add content in at least the same quantity as the duplicate content (probably based on characters is the most accurate way to go) keeping in mind that the header, navigation, footer all get repeated on every page and is duplicate content also. @copywriter's ideas above are a great way to do that.
4) Block the pages from being crawled.

Unfortunately, #4 is the most economical and is better than losing the whole site. They would then focus all their SEO on the Homepage and Category pages.

If I owned the site, though, I would find a way to get one of the other strategies done, 100 pages at a time. It would pay with much better traffic from branded and long-tail search terms.

#5 chrishirst

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

They would then focus all their SEO on the Homepage and Category pages.

Which really is the wrong thing to do

A "home" page is NOT where you want search referrals to arrive on your site, you want them to land right smack down on the URL/document that matches what they were searching for, "Home" pages are rarely that, unless they searched for your name.

A "home page" for a "category" is fine for a general product/service type but you REALLY want them to land on a specific product, so the buying impulse/persuasion is not lost by making them search further.
The "Don't make me think" principle should be foremost in your mind when planning your optimising and promotion strategies, rather than ten - fifteen year old "advice" that at the time was sort of ok, simply because the competition didn't exist, and there might well only have been a handful of competing sites, so getting ANY page in the top ten got your site some hits.

Just "being there" simply isn't enough, you have to be there for the right words and with the right document.

Edited by chrishirst, 14 April 2012 - 09:43 AM.


#6 Jill

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 11:55 AM

I disagree with these:



1) Include the product descriptions in an image file (this will increase the thin content issue, though).

3) Add content in at least the same quantity as the duplicate content (probably based on characters is the most accurate way to go) keeping in mind that the header, navigation, footer all get repeated on every page and is duplicate content also.


Do not put written content into images--ever. Google does understand that many sites will use the same manufacturer's descriptions, and it's not a problem as long as you also have your own unique content to go along with it, such as reviews or testimonials (real ones of course).

And headers and footers that are all the same are a perfectly normal situation with EVERY site on the internet. Of course it's not a problem with Google nor would the ever in a million years penalize a site for that.

#7 clandestino

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 08:45 PM

@chrishirst I agree with you completely.

@Jill Why not use an image? I really don't know and am interested in your input. Wouldn't it be better to re-write the content and make it unique for your customers?

Also, Google says they do lots of things that we can prove they can't competently complete. Why trust them on duplicate content and Panda? I've read hundreds of forum posts of e-commerce sites that were hit by Panda, where there is no apparent reason, and Google's not talking. Do you think it's possible -- where 1000's of affiliates have picked up your product descriptions off Amazon -- that Google might mistake you for the enemy, i.e., one of those affiliates, and penalize your sites? How can you guarantee they wouldn't? Affiliates are dropping like flies.

#8 Jill

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 10:04 PM

The key is to add value. If you don't, then google shouldn't show you. Adding value has nothing to do with rewriting manufacturer descriptions. End of story.

#9 copywriter

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:22 PM

I agree with what's been said and will also add that you're dealing with duplicate content across numerous domains not controlled by your client vs. duplicate content across a single domain or multiple domains linked to your client. Google does seem to recognize that ecommerce product descriptions are almost always canned when sites are large enough to warrant using manufacturer- or distributor-provided copy. Adding helpful, original content is key to making the client's site stand out. Check it out for yourself simply by doing a search for a snippet of canned copy. You'll see that every site that uses that text does not get filtered by the dup. content filter.
  • Jill likes this

#10 clandestino

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:35 PM

Hi @copywriter,

I agree with everything you say. You can certainly improve your results and protect yourself from Panda by adding original content that is interesting and adds value to users. It's a good move all around as it gives you opportunities, or reasons, to market your site and products.

Don't get me wrong in the things I say about Google. I strongly believe that the key to SEO is a Marketing/User Centric Approach. No SEO strategy will be anywhere close to as effective as one that is driven by strong offers that reach out to the strong emotional reasons people will benefit from your products.

I just wish Google would be more of an advocate when it comes to marketing rather than an adversary protecting their advertising products. It could be a Win-Win rather than Us-Against-Them situation. They have made a business decision, though, and they will have to live with it.

I do worry that Google will make a mistake and penalize a site if it looks like an affiliate. It's the affiliates (and, unfortunately, the small mom & pop businesses) that won't or don't have the budget to re-write product descriptions or add good ad copy to their pages. I think that is a signal that Google pays attention to, and they may victimize honest businesses by using it, but there is no way to know for sure.

Many other experts that are very well positioned in the industry do recommend re-writing product descriptions, just depends who you talk to. Keeping in mind that everybody is guessing.

I do see a lot of cases where people are using product feeds and get their sites burned, not just one, all of them! Or, maybe they are all lying to us and they sit in their basement every night hatching black hat schemes they can use to take advantage of all the other honest users, LOL! I doubt it. When there is as much published as there is now about sites being unfairly victimized, there is usually an element of truth to it.

I don't think I would trust Google.

After all, they won't even put on enough staff to tell people why they did it when they are making Billions of Dollars. I suspect it won't be long until the Federal Government is on their trail, actually, they already are.

@copywriter

Here is a good case in point.

Google Stops Listing Burberry US Home Page ---> http://www.seroundta...ssue-14973.html

Why not give Dean a call and save everybody a lot of trouble and improve the tarnished Google Brand.

Do you think Burberry was trying to scam the system?

You never know what Google will do next. But, you can be sure of one thing -- they won't make sure everyone understands what the new interpretation of their rules means and/or how to implement it.

We'll all be out here writing posts and guessing.

It seems as though Google's method of communication is burning businesses' websites. But that isn't very effective, because they more frequently won't tell them why. They only explained in Burberry's case because Burberry is a Brand and they went to the press.

Mom and pop businesses don't get that courtesy because they aren't relevant in Google's eyes, even if they drive traffic that generates clicks for Google's advertising products.

Edited by Jill, 15 April 2012 - 09:46 PM.
Merged 2posts in a row


#11 Jill

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:48 PM

Read what was said by google. They did exactly what they should have done regarding the Burberry site.

#12 clandestino

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 12:37 AM

Hi Jill,

Out of curiosity, can you find the portion of the Quality Guidelines that covers that?

It was plainly obvious that they weren't trying to get duplicate listings in the US. All it would take is a WMT setting to clear up the problem, come on! I think they should have called Dean and cleared it up.

Dean's recourse was to let everyone know how ridiculous this was by going to the press. Once again Google comes out looking bad and their brand is further tarnished. And because Burberry is a Brand, Google will back down. The little mom and pop shop would lose their site.

Who runs a business like that? It gives the impression that @chrishirst is right -- they don't see website owners as their customer and they don't particularly care what they think.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

Edited by ChuckFinley, 16 April 2012 - 12:38 AM.


#13 Jill

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 06:44 AM

I was talking about what google said in the thread you posted.

#14 copywriter

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:15 AM

Many other experts that are very well positioned in the industry do recommend re-writing product descriptions,


Including me. If the budget allows, I always advocate rewriting canned copy.

Chuck, on an entirely different note... did you used to work as a radio announcer in Columbia, SC years ago?

#15 clandestino

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:50 PM

No, although that's a wonderful place to live. You can't hear my voice, what makes you ask, LOL!




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