Duplicate Content Is a Mistake, Not a Strategy

There are lots of legitimate reasons you might consider using duplicate content in your marketing strategy. Maybe you want to standardize information across your online marketplaces, or you don’t want the expense of creating two or three versions of each product’s content. Or maybe you’re at the mercy of a strict legal team that regulates every syllable of product information you might make public.

These are all, clearly, persuasive forces that will affect your marketing strategy. But there’s more to it than your writing budget and your lawyer’s demands. Have you considered SEO effects, the joys and sorrows of content spinning, or what your online retailers might require in your project descriptions? Come with us, and we’ll walk you through the other elements to consider when putting together your plan.

What About Content Spinning?

One low-rent way companies seek to avoid duplicate content is content spinning. We’ve talked about the perils of content spinning before, and little has changed in the approach. However, with Google Hummingbird and the renewed focus on deep, rich, unique content, the hazards of playing fast and loose with your thesaurus are the least of your worries. There are ways to get around this and to create content that’s valuable to both your customers and search engines, but we’ll get to that shortly.

To be clear, duplicate content doesn’t hurt your SEO value. But it certainly complicates it and can end up stymieing your efforts to rank higher. How can both of those be true? Moz explains why duplicate content confuses search engines in greater technical detail than we can.

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Unique and Useful Win the Day

Search engines (by which we generally mean Google, to be clear) like unique content that’s also readable and useful. This rules out a lot of content-farmed nonsense, which is why said nonsense has fallen out of vogue over the last couple of years. Since its Panda update, Google has focused on content that’s written for people, not machines. Your best bet is to create well-crafted, authoritative content about your company and your product and to make it widely available online.

Google’s Matt Cutts has even said that there’s no penalty for duplicate content (unless your content is a hot spammy mess). But again, just because duplicate content isn’t penalized doesn’t mean it won’t hurt your online performance.

If you create a rich environment of content across several sites, you can more easily fill the search engine result pages (SERPs) for your relevant searches with content that helps your customers–and that you created and approved. This is where duplicate content makes things tricky.

If you add the exact same content to several high-authority retail sites (Amazon, Walmart, etc.), you’re forcing Google to decide which version of the content is the definitive version. The rest are folded into “other results,” and the highlighted retailer may not be the one you want your customers to flock to. Our guest post from SEO whiz Kate Morris goes into deeper detail.

Come back next week for our interview with Marianne Sweeny of Portent for further explanation of the drawbacks of duplicate content.

How Online Retailers Lend a Hand

Fortunately, most retailers give you a pretty straightforward way to get around this: specific retailer needs for language, images, and design. Target, for example, doesn’t take descriptions over 250 words, while Costco requires at least 1,000 words. Amazon has very strict requirements for length and format, and Walmart has its own list of dos and don’ts. Babies R Us requires that third-party content has a specific tone to better reach its target audience.

This makes it much easier to create search engine-pleasing content that can establish your authority across a variety of online marketplaces–all without abusing your thesaurus or making your local wordsmith cry.

Make Your Content Useful

So what should you keep in mind when you’re making future marketing plans? Your content needs to provide value–and not just to your KPIs and conversion rates. Website content, product-page content, and everything else connecting with your brand should be fresh, skillfully created, and strategically deployed. Avoid posting the same couple of paragraphs across every online marketplace you do business with.

It’s the unofficial Hummingbird slogan: do right by your customers, and Google will do right by you.