Preventing Duplicate Content on an E-Commerce Site

In the world of E-Commerce SEO, using duplicate or thin, low-quality content can be disastrous—in fact, it can wipe out your rankings. Search engines are now implementing sophisticated systemsthat reward websites that follow best practices and instantly penalize those that offer subpar content. Search bots have gotten so much better at separating the wheat from the chaff, it’s nearly impossible to rank well without high-quality and unique content.

Preventing Duplicate Content on an E-Commerce Site

Understanding What ‘Duplicate’ Means 

The first step to preventing duplicate content on your e-commerce site is to know exactly what counts as ‘duplicate.’ As defined by Google, duplicate content may refer to blocks of information or content within and/or across domains that are appreciably similar or that completely match others. In many cases, duplicate content is not deceptive in origin—as in the case of discussion forums generating stripped down pages that target mobile devices, printer-only web page versions, and store items linked using distinct URLs. Still—no matter what the intent—having them can negatively impact rankings. 

‘Thin’ content can also get your ecommerce site into trouble. Thin content refers to pages that do not actually provide value to web users—particularly when they were deliberately made as part of a program, distributing content to several more affiliates. Then there are cookie-cutter sites made using templates that don’t offer original content. Google flags these kinds of sites because create a rather frustrating user experience for searchers. A common example of thin affiliate is a page containing product affiliate links featuring reviews and product descriptions that are directly copied from an original merchant, without any added value or additional original content. 

Addressing Duplicate Issues in Ecommerce 

Duplicating certain portions of content is an inevitable part of web development, and a few identical words here and there probably won’t hurt. What you should really be worried about is having a significant number of pages that are, for the most part, duplicates. 

These include product pages with very short product descriptions that may trigger thin content flags and lead search bots to tag your content as being of lesser value. Remember the infamous Panda Update? Many websites lost their rankings, having been discovered to contain exact-matching content either within their domains or across others. 

A range of technical issues may lead to duplicate content situations that may cause Google to penalize your ecommerce site. Below are some of the common types of duplicate content caused by technical issues. Avoid them at all costs: 

  • Internal duplicate content –Internal duplicate content can come in the form of a technical or editorial content. Internal technical duplicates may be non-canonical URLs, session IDs, shopping cart pages, internal search results, duplicate URL paths, product review pages, trailing slashes on URLs, and secure URLs or HTTPs. Internal editorial duplicate content may refer to instances of shared content between different products, category pages, and duplicate content-laden or low quality home page copy.
  • External duplicate content – Offsite duplicate content can be caused by copied manufacturer product descriptions, product feeds, the development and staging of Sandbox websites, and the use of syndicated and scraped content.
  • Thin content – In addition to duplicate content, website owners must also be careful with thin content (or content that offers little to no value to readers). Thin content takes away from good user experience and may get a website penalized when used to a certain extent. 

By addressing duplicate content and creating original and relevant pages that are valuable to Google and its readers, your ecommerce website can be rewarded with higher search rankings and greater visibility in the SERPs. But dealing with duplicate content can be a challenge—especially in the case of ecommerce websites, when the issue is technical in nature. Fortunately, you can count on SEOValley. We have helped hundreds of ecommerce websites of all sizes solve their duplicate content issues—and we can help you, too. Contact us today.