Posted by Kate Morris
There is a ton of talk right now about Panda recovery. SEOmoz is no exception to this: questions in Q&A, webmasters cleaning up their content, and so much more. Webmasters are taking control of their sites, building some awesome original content, and ensuring that content can be found by letting users (and bots) know about it.
So it surprised me when a large client asked for help to combat an internal project that would place duplicate content on their site. They are in the ecommerce space and have the issue of selling products that many other companies sell. Duplicated content runs rampant here in the form of product descriptions. The manufacturer creates a description for resellers and that is what everyone uses. It’s sanctioned from the source and no writers are needed. Sounds awesome until the product is carried by hundreds of websites and everyone has the same content. Who should rank then?
Like most big companies (as is my client), this decision was made by someone else and the SEO team screamed in defiance. So they asked me for proof that having unique content was as necessary as everyone keeps saying.
Done. And guess what? Google backed me up (in at least 3 examples). So I thought I’d share my best example and my take aways to help other ecommerce sites deal with this situation now and in the future.
Bodum Fyrkat Nipper
There is no disclaimer needed in this case as I chose this product at total random from Amazon. I had purchased a personal grill recently from the same manufacturer and knew that there were many sellers for that product. I wanted something that was cool but also common place. Therefore, I used the grill tongs and went searching for examples of other sellers. My point here was to show that duplicated content in the form of product descriptions doesn’t help rank the product page, so the first step was to find multiple sellers of the product.
Find Seller Information
To identify the sellers, I used searches for the product name, product number, a snippet of the product description from the seller (and once identified, the manufacturer supplied description), and some reviews that kept popping up. I noticed that many of the pages that had the standard product description had the same two reviews as well. Easy way to identify a page with no unique content. The identified product pages (check for the canonical URL) were then checked for page and domain authority.
When the pages are checked, you’ll see a trend in descriptions and be able to identify the manufacturer’s feed for the description. Note which sites write their own and which use the same as everyone else. Below is a list of our competitors and their domain (DA) and page authority (PA) in order of strength, grouped by content type. From this, we would assume based on strength that Amazon, Zappos, Cooking.com, or Epicurious would have a strong shot at ranking.
- Amazon.com – 97 DA, 1 PA
- Zappos – 90 DA, 46 PA
- Bodum – 62 DA, 35 PA
- Maple Run Emporiums – 18 DA, 20 PA
- Epicurious – 89 DA, 1 PA
- Cooking.com – 78 DA, 42 PA
- Betty Crocker – 72 DA, 1 PA
- CSNStore.com – 70 DA, 1 PA
- Food Network Stores – 64 DA, 1 PA
- Buzzillions – 61 DA, 1 PA
Find the Key Phrase and Rankings
But what are we ranking? Typically I would use a variation of the product name, but Amazon threw me a curve ball: they renamed the product to help with internal search. Instead of Fyrkat Grill Nipper, they use the name Fyrkat Grill Tongs. This decision makes more sense to me, and I’m assuming it helps with searching internally as well. But I didn’t want to take Amazon’s word for it. Always check for which term is better according to actual searches.
To test, I looked at the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool and ran three keywords. None of them had traffic numbers from Google, but the difficulty of Fyrkat Grill Nipper was higher. That made sense as more sites used that name for the product, so the competition is more fierce. The impact this has is that the Amazon page is most likely going to show lower than normal because they name the product differently.
Working in the Keyword Difficulty Tool also give you a look at the ranking sites for the keyword, which is the next step.
The top three results are Zappos, Bodum, and Maple Run Emporium; the rest are videos or aggregators. These three are the sites with original content, taking out Amazon due to their shifted targeting. The product manufacturer is third and my theory is that is due to the fact that their content is duplicated across the Internet, but they are the original and should be up there.
All other major brands and their product pages didn’t show on the first page, with CSN being the only one to show on the second page. Search engines want to show users the best content for their time, so it makes sense that aggregators (who show where the product is sold across the web) and video content is intermixed with the sellers who took time to describe the product on their own.
Winning in eCommerce
What I want you to take away from this post is this: Even a tiny original bit of content can set the page apart from competitors.
Maple Run Emporium, check out their domain and page strength. They are paltry next to bigger sites like Betty Crocker and Epicurious. Yet with a small hand written description of the product that is a sentence long, they are ranking above all the other major sellers! Their page, below, is simple and direct.
- Feel free to use syndicated content to enhance your own content and reviews.
- Make it know that it is from the manufacturer.
- Place it at the end of the text on your page.
- Write your own descriptions of the products. We aren’t talking a novel, but something unique.
- Give the product to someone in the office and have them write what they think.
- Use the words from a customer’s review (ask them if they are cool with that via email).
- Don’t just rewrite the content you are given from the manufacturer, really write what you think about the product.
- Have fun with it. See examples at Amazon and Zappos.
- Entice users to review your products. Email them a week after they receive the product and give them a link to the product page with a request to review it. See the example from Modcloth below: