Duplicate Product Descriptions and SEO – Will They Hurt My Ranking?

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Duplicate Product Descriptions and SEO – Will They Hurt My Ranking?d-tags
11 July 2022
Ecommerce owners frequently deal with internal duplicate content. Online stores that offer similar products or the same products in different color versions or sizes, often copy and paste descriptions. This may have a negative impact on SEO, conversion, and page visibility in the search results. How to overcome the problem and fight duplicate content product descriptions? Let’s find out!

7min.

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Table of contents:

Is It Really Bad for SEO to Have Duplicate Product Descriptions?

Product descriptions are an indispensable part of every online store. They serve both users (who can learn about the features of a given item) and search engine robots (that can better understand your page, and decide what keywords should be assigned to it). So, what if you're dealing with duplicate product descriptions on your webiste? If you’re familiar with SEO and Google guidelines, you certainly know that unique, quality content is a must-have if you want to rank high. Why? Because using the same descriptions for various products leads to internal duplicate content and keyword cannibalization. As you may guess, these two definitely won’t help you reach the TOP10. In the beginning, it’s worth mentioning that according to John Mueller from Google, there is no need to write unique descriptions for each product variant and version. This is particularly applicable if you offer e.g., 100 color versions of one T-shirt. Google’s Search advocate states it’s simply a waste of time because Google won’t penalize you for duplicate content. While unique content helps Google crawl and rank particular pages, it’s not a necessity. Therefore, during the SEO process you should focus on writing unique, quality descriptions only for products and pages whose positions you want to improve:
Mueller said that Google won’t demote a site for duplicate content. But he also said that a lack of text content that describes the visual quality of a product makes it harder for Google to rank those pages. - https://www.searchenginejournal.com/duplicate-product-descriptions/432167/#close

What Can You Do With Duplicate Product Descriptions? 9 Practical Tips You Can Use Right Away

If possible, it’s worth getting rid of duplicate product descriptions. SEO can’t be fully effective when important keywords on your website are cannibalized. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that will help you solve the problem.

1. Add Descriptions of Unique Visual Elements to the Text

If you offer 50 product versions in your online store, these products may somehow differ from each other. Otherwise, you’d simply sell one item, wouldn’t you?
To get rid of duplicate content product descriptions, mention unique features that make your products stand out from each other.
If the offered shoes are blue, mention it in the description, and title. If you sell a V-neck T-shirt with an animal print, write about it. Product design, size, or color are only some elements you can use to make the descriptions more unique. Once you do it, the rest of the text, meaning specification, can stay the same. This way you'll avoid duplicate product descriptions and won't hurt your SEO efforts. It’s all about giving Google a chance to understand your website better and help it decide what keywords match given pages. Thanks to such detailed descriptions and unique visual elements, the robots are able to differentiate between similar products and show users the ones they’re looking for. Remember that images aren’t enough for Google. As stated by Mueller, to understand your product range, it needs text:
So that’s… the angle I would take here is it’s fine to have parts of the description duplicated. But I would definitely make sure that you at least have something in there that really has text about the visual elements that are unique to those individual products that you’re selling.

2. Add Visual Elements to Alt Texts of Images

Alt text is an alternative description created for both visually impaired users and Google robots. It helps them understand what’s in the image. Therefore, when writing alt descriptions for your images, make sure that they include important product keywords as well as characteristic features such as color, size, or style. This way, you’ll inform both Google and users about elements that make your specific product page stand out.

3. Create Unique Descriptions

Creating a unique description for each product page is the most favorable method to deal with internal duplicate content and keyword cannibalization. This way, you can saturate your website with additional quality content and expand the list of keywords your page is displayed for. Why is it worth writing product descriptions from scratch? The more unique descriptions on the website, the smaller the percentage of duplicate content. This solution is perfect for shops that don’t offer too many colors or sizes of the same products. It makes sense if the costs don't outweigh the benefits. Remember that cooperation with qualified SEO copywriters can be expensive. Especially, if you successively introduce new products, colors, and sizes to your offer. Unique content can give you a lot, provided that you’re able to continue creating it for new product versions without sacrificing the quality. If not, use our tips to avoid problems with duplicate product descriptions. Content marketing seo optimizations

4. Use Synonyms

If creating unique descriptions for each product version seems infeasible in your case, you may benefit from other possibilities offered by the language. Why don’t you use synonyms or paraphrase existing descriptions, adding unique elements describing features of individual products? It’s a great way to avoid keyword cannibalization and internal duplication without spending too much money on copywriting. If you aren’t sure whether this option will help you with duplicate content product descriptions, try to implement changes gradually and monitor the SERPs. If your positions don’t deteriorate, it’s a sign you can continue with the remaining products. Note that this is a rather temporary option. It should be implemented carefully and you need to regularly monitor the pages to see how Google reacts and evaluates them. Creating canonical links is the most popular method of dealing with duplicate content product descriptions. This solution doesn’t require big financial resources and isn’t particularly time-consuming. A canonical tag tells the search engine robots to index only one particular, “preferred” page version from a group of URLs. It’s advisable to implement canonical links on pages with different sizes, or color versions of the product. Thanks to that, Google robots are going to index only the main product page and description. Canonicals are a great way to avoid internal duplication. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning that applying them means it’s impossible to search the site with the use of long tail keywords (such as black jeans pants). Consequently, the SEO process can take a bit longer in this particular case.

6. Apply Filters

Online shops with a wide range of products can also benefit from filters. They allow users to sort the assortment by color, size, fabrics, brand, and other attributes that make it easier to find products users are looking for. Color or size filters aren’t only a method of dealing with internal duplicate content. The solution has a positive impact on UX and improves website navigation. It works well in sizeable online stores offering thousands of products because browsing all of them manually would take ages. duplicate product descriptions seo filtering Imagine that you’re looking for a new TV. You aren’t sure about the brand, but you know what size you want, and how much money you can spend. Thanks to filters you can quickly see whether the store offers any tellies meeting your expectations, and you can select the one that suits you best.
Content filtering is user and search engine-friendly. It works well in industries where color, size, or the material the product is made of plays a key role.
This might be a solution for you if you operate in the clothing, electronic, footwear, or jewelry sector. Remember that the implementation of filters may lead to some problems. Why? Search engine robots see each of the created addresses (URLs with attributes such as sizes, or colors) as a separate one. [caption id="attachment_19835" align="aligncenter" width="384"]Zalando URL adress The main category - women’s skirts[/caption] [caption id="attachment_19837" align="aligncenter" width="419"]Zalando URL adress categories Women’s skirts filtered according to the black color[/caption] Consequently, filtered pages are copies of the main product category. To fully benefit from this solution and make sure that it doesn’t harm your ranking, you should either use the noindex tag to mark newly created pages or block the indexing of the filtered content in the robots.txt file.

7. Use User-Generated Content

User-generated content informs search engine robots that your website is active, and attracts visitors. In fact, pieces of content such as comments, or reviews written by actual users are incredibly valuable and may mean to Google more than product descriptions you write yourself. If you want to fight internal duplicate content product descriptions, encourage your customers to write product reviews and comments. It would be ideal if these comments contained characteristic features such as the sizes, or colors of your products. The more unique user-generated content on your page, the ber the social proof, and the lower the internal duplication rate. Building relationships with customers and encouraging them to be active on your page is worth the hassle. Trust us.

8. AI Content

The importance and popularity of AI (artificial intelligence) content are increasing year by year. More and more content creators benefit from this solution. Contrary to what you may think, AI texts don’t have to be poor quality, senseless pieces that won’t bring your page any value. Just check out solutions such as Jasper or OpenAI. You’ll be surprised how good they’re. The world is constantly evolving. If there are tools that can help you create quality content quickly and efficiently, why shouldn’t you use them?

9. Schema.org

Organizing your website content will undoubtedly help you decrease the internal duplication rate and keyword cannibalization. For this purpose, you may use Schema.org, meaning a set of schemes, and features for embedding structured data. Thanks to microdata, you can mark elements such as reviews, sizes, prices, colors, and many more. Schema tags help Google understand your website content. Apart from Schema.org, you can also use product feeds. These are files containing product attributes, such as images, titles, identifiers, marketing copy, and lists that are properly organized. Thanks to them, each and every product version can be displayed in a unique way, which helps to fight duplicate content product descriptions.

Duplicate Content Product Descriptions & SEO - The Takeaway

Copying product descriptions from manufacturers’ websites or using the same texts for different product variants leads to duplicate content and keyword cannibalization. Although Google states it doesn’t penalize websites for internal content duplication, it might be hard for you to reach TOP positions for important keywords if your descriptions don’t mention unique visual elements of the products. So, which of the tips should you use to fight duplicate product descriptions? It entirely depends on your website and capabilities. If your budget doesn’t allow you to cooperate with a copywriter, use synonyms, paraphrase existing descriptions, or apply product filters and canonicals. Remember that interacting with customers and encouraging them to write comments, or reviews can also do the job. All these are effective methods of dealing with duplicate content product descriptions. You can also use some of the technical SEO solutions we mentioned in this article. Do you need help with creating unique product descriptions, and decreasing your internal duplicate content? Contact us. We’re experts in writing texts both Google and users will love! This is an update of an article published in 2019. 
Author
Author
Kasia Smoleń

Junior SEO Specialist

Author
Author
Kasia Smoleń

Junior SEO Specialist

Comments

  1. Great article!! Exactly what we are looking for on our new Shopify site.
    Thank you for being clear and precise on actions to take instead of broad general statements.

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