Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Unique Product Descriptions

If you own an e-commerce site which is suffering from "duplicate content" issues (according to Google), you have to do something, and pronto!

First, you have to determine the cause of the issue.
  1. Did you "copy and paste" from someone else's site?
  2. Just because you buy from a manufacturer, for example, does not mean that you have a license to copy their content.
  3. Did someone copy your unique content?
  4. If this is the case, and especially if the site that copied your content is outranking you, you can (and should) report it to Google. Search for "Google Scraper Report" and take action.
  5. Did you scrape your own site?
  6. What! Yes, as strange as that may sound, and especially if you've been around e-commerce since the early days, chances are you might have copied and pasted part or all of your descriptions to your eBay listings, for example. That causes duplicate content issues.
  7. Did you create new pages for, say, better URLs, and used the same content (makes sense), but forgot to delete the old pages?

These are some of situations that may cause duplicate content issues and, once you determine what those causes are, you can take appropriate action.

In the case of scraper sites, you can report them to Google and hope they will do something about it.

If you copied and pasted descriptions from a manufacturer's site you will have to own that one and do something about it. That something will mean you will have to create your own unique content and that's that!

Yes, it can be a PITA and, depending on how many products you carry it may border on impossible, but that's the reality of the situation so please don't kill the messenger.

Anyway, if this is the case, how do you go about it?

Good question, and the best answer I can give you, is to create a plan of action and a schedule to figure out how long such project will take. In some cases, depending on whatever human resources you may have at your disposal it may take weeks, or a few months, or longer. But regardless of how long it may take, it must be done, and the time will tick away whether you take action or not.

In other words, if you discover that it will take you until April of next year to rewrite the contents of your site, April of next year will come and go regardless of your actions, so might as well get it done.

The reason I recommend for you to plan your work is to determine where to start, which is the most important part of the whole equation.

So, if you have two thousand five hundred different SKUs (Stock Keeping Units), don't just start from page one and work down the list. Instead, determine which items are the best sellers and the most profitable, and organize your action list accordingly.

And while you're at it, make sure you discuss canonical tagging with your service provider and your developer (if you use one), so those tags are properly in place, as they will address duplicate content issues within your site you were not even aware of.

For more information about canonical tags, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonical_link_element


OTHER SALES CHANNELS

As I mentioned above, if you copied and pasted your content (or part of it) to your eBay Store, Amazon Marketplace, etc., in order to save time, well, you actually created more work for yourself, and those descriptions will also have to be edited so they are unique.

But please know that just by shuffling words around (a.k.a. "spinning") you won't solve your problems and, as a matter of fact, you may end up making a bad situation, worse.

It may be a good idea to actually hire writers through a service such as elance.com to help you deal with content creation. But do yourself a favor and hire domestic writers. In other words, don't try to save a few bucks by farming out the work outside of the U.S. (or wherever you are located), just for the savings. Website content is too important and must be dealt with accordingly.


AFFILIATES

Many affiliate services use your own content in order to allow affiliates to offer your products. If that's the case, guess what... you could have tons of duplicate content out there, that you created. 

Based on the service you used, cleaning up that content may be something easy or nearly impossible.

However, if you've decided to write fresh content for your site, this issue no longer poses a threat. Well, at least theoretically, and you may want to check with your service providers to make sure that, indeed, that would be the case, as some services may continually scrape your content and update affiliate listings accordingly.


IN SUM

Duplicate content has many faces and comes from different angles, so your job is to take inventory of however many channels you've created that could be part of the problem.

There's no easy fix for this issue, and it will take many hours of work, but it can be done, and if you start with your "best sellers," then at least you are dealing with the problem in an efficient manner.

I know that it is a PITA problem, but your best bet is to deal with it swiftly and as efficiently as you can. Next month and next year will come and go, and you might as well have great, fresh new content when that day arrives.