Duplicating a single product description across multiple websites does have its consequences. But the extent to which a website suffers from this duplication will vary on factors like supporting web page content and SERP (search engine results page) variations.
John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, covers this concern in a recent YouTube video. In the clip, Mueller discusses what Google is looking at when it comes to product descriptions as well as when duplications may impact site traffic numbers for manufacturers and other stakeholders.
No Direct Penalties for Content Duplication on Manufacturing Websites
First and foremost, there are no outright penalties for content duplication of the sort we’re talking about here. Mueller himself addresses duplication penalties in the clip. This may seem a bit jarring to the product marketer whose job hinges on providing unique copy for a manufactured product. Shouldn’t there be some penalties for duplication? After all, businesses pay for that copy and its publication.
Well, rather than leap too far down the content-philosophy rabbit hole, let’s take a gander at what Mueller actually says about duplicated catalog content.
What Google Looks at, According to John Mueller
Mueller covers two general elements that Google will examine as it pertains to content. First, is the whole page a duplication or just the product description? The times when Google takes action will typically involve websites entirely made of duplicated content. A section devoted to a product catalog is less likely to draw red flags.
Second, Google uses product descriptions for SERP snippets that appear at the top of the results page for the user. This leads us to another point – that is, the answer to the question: If product duplication isn’t penalized, how might it still affect manufacturing and distribution websites?
Duplication of Catalogs for Manufacturers Can Still Affect Website Traffic
Imagine you’re looking for a concrete saw and you search by model number. You may find that the top of the results page has a window into the model description, a snippet that provides the basics about that saw via generic spec terminology. If this is the product you’re looking for, you’re far more likely to click the website link associated with the snippet than the links that follow.
Why does this matter?
Well, in the case of duplicate product descriptions, Google won’t feature both pages at the top of the SERP. They’ll only go with one of them. So if you’re a distributor or manufacturer trying to gain more site traffic via catalog content, duplicating the content doesn’t help you separate yourself from original content in a way that’s conducive to efficient SEO practices. In fact, it may do the opposite.
When in Doubt, Default to Creating Unique Web Copy for your Manufacturing and Distribution Website
Your best bet is to stick to creating unique copy whenever possible, even if you’re simply repurposing your partner’s product content. That doesn’t mean you have to bend over backward coming up with fresh new ways to talk about medical device equipment or construction tools. But you should err on the side of rewriting to the best of your ability. Maybe find a thesaurus for some new adjectives or research additional benefits to feature.
Developing original phrases with effective keywords can only help, provided they’re getting at the heart of the customer’s questions and needs.
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