There’s nothing creepier than duplicate content
It should noted be that this article is not for webmasters that intend to use duplicate content to piggyback off of the work of others to boost their traffic. Even though such a “strategy” is counterintuitive given Google’s witch hunt for said practices, thousands of websites across the world continue to bite content without permission. Their days are numbered so let’s not worry about them. Instead, this piece relates to businesses that depend upon pulling content from a shared database or portal in order to promote their product/service. This is a legitimate practice that unfortunately puts them in harm’s way of a duplicate content penalty. Is this you? No worries, I have a solution.
First, let’s identify the types of businesses and associated websites that I am referring to here. Businesses that sell products online as a part of an affiliate program often pull product descriptions from a single source. Those same descriptions are used by potentially thousands of other webmasters resulting in exponential duplication of textual content. Travel agents too share the same destination, service, and amenity descriptions as provided by hotels, airlines, cruises, and the like. Real estate professionals are also severely dependent upon receiving a listing feed that is shared by countless of other real estate professionals. Do you fit within these relative categories? Then read further.
4 SEO Solutions for Businesses Dependent upon Duplicate Content:
1. Start with a Flexible CMS
Many affiliates, distributors, real estate agents and the like start with a template referred to them by their head office or supplier. These templates are often like handcuffs, preventing affiliates/agents the ability to act on the duplicate content issues in the first place. If you intend on being in business for the long haul then it’s best to invest in your own flexible Content Management System such as WordPress and scrap cookie cutter templates used by everyone else in your industry.
2. Use Canonical Tags if You Control the Database
If you are provided complete control over the database where product content exists then you have a leg up in that you can differentiate the product descriptions (write your own) from your competitors. However you may still run into your own duplicate content issues when you display the same product (and description) on multiple URLs because that product fits within multiple categories or is sorted by multiple filters (size, color, etc…). In that event, you’ll need to determine which page is the most relevant to said product and direct Google to that exact page through the use of a canonical tag. Simply provide these canonical instructions from Google to your developer and your problem is solved.
3. Add Unique Content to Pages Where Duplicate Content is Fed
In the more likely event (for the purpose of this article) that you are pulling content from a database with little control over the product/service descriptions your best solution is to provide original content to introduce and complement the feed on each page. For example, a real estate agent is “forced” to display the same property listing as their competitors, thus duplicating content along with them. This is one of the reasons real estate agents have a heck of a time moving up in search rank when new to the game and have no website domain authority to even the playing field. The solution for those agents with a flexible CMS is to write their own optimized introductory title and paragraph about each property listing and place it above the listing feed. That way the agent has differentiated themselves from the thousands of others using the exact same page text and images.
4. Add More Pages of Original Content
In addition to adding your optimized two cents to the pages that feature database feeds it’s extremely important to add other pages to your website that feature 100% original and useful (to your customers) content. Show Google (and customers!) that your website is offering more value than your competition and you will be rewarded with a boost in search rank. There are many ways to accomplish this. At the very least add a blog to your website, claim your Google Authorship, and update the blog weekly with your own original content. In addition, add new static (no need to update often) pages where it makes sense. Travel agents for example have an endless supply of reasons to add pages to their website – they could provide readers with explicit details about an individual vacation destinations or tips on traveling with kids, as examples.
Conclusion – Depending upon duplicate content to run a website is often a “necessary evil” in many industries but the well intentioned should not have to pay a Google penalty for it. Instead, by following the above solutions you show search engines that you have tipped the scales towards providing more original content than the competition using the same database feed as you. In turn, you will see a boost in search rank while the competition eventually gets buried under the monotonous pile of the same old same.