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The Problems with Thin or Duplicate Content on eCommerce Websites
Many business owners who operate an eCommerce website, utilise product information from the manufacturer’s websites. That’s problem number one. The second problem is that the description of their products is very thin, in many cases just a few sentences.
So eCommerce sites have lots of products, sometimes hundreds and thousands, but very little content and what content they do have is highly copied or duplicated. All of this is a problem because Google looks down on websites that have sparse content that is not unique.
So the end result is that if you have copied the sales information, specs or descriptions of your products from another website, you may not rank very well in the search engine results pages (serps). This is because Google likes to present diverse results to their searchers and if you have duplicate content, then why would they present two or more web pages with the same content?
You won’t necessarily be penalised, but you won’t rank well either and your traffic will drop or at least it won’t rise to the heights you anticipated. This is called off-site duplicate content, because the same content is displayed by two or more URLs.
Let’s look at some other causes of both on and off-site duplication or thin content:
On-site duplication can include:
- Having the same content on more than one page on your website, but having different URLs leading to this content. This happens a lot on eCommerce sites, simply due to the way these sites are structured. For example, http://mydomain.com/shoes/designer.html and http://mydomain.com/designer.html might both go to the same page and Google thinks this is duplicate content. The way to fix this is to tell Google which URL is the source or in tech talk to have canonical URLS.
- If a customer’s session ID is are added to the URL and then a new URL is generated, this creates duplicates again. The way to fix this is to create canonical URLs for each session.
- The same products show in multiple categories, review pages, shopping cart pages and internal search pages – all of this causes a duplication problem, so make all of these URLs ‘no index’.
Also, make sure that the content of your home page is not a duplicate of your internal pages and the same for your category pages (this is another common problem). Adding unique content can in many cases, simply mean rewriting and enhancing the same content.
Off-site duplication can include:
I have already mentioned the biggest cause of off-site duplicate content, which is copying sales information from the manufacturer’s website. Another cause is that many eCommerce sites give product feeds to various online shops – this is duplicate content. So make sure that you give each shop a different feed to avoid this problem. Also, include a link to the original source of the content, so Google knows the origin of the content.
More than any other site, it is eCommerce websites that suffer the most from thin and duplicate content. Google does not favour websites that suffer from these problems, so it is vital that you ensure that all of your content is not only unique, but is also high quality. If you disregard these issues, you will lose both traffic and rankings and may even suffer from a Google penalty.
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Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.