There is something that almost always comes up in reviews of retail sites–duplicate content. What I mean when I say duplicate content is the same words on a page that exist elsewhere on the Internet. For any product sold online in multiple locations, product names are standard across the board, as are suggested retail prices, but descriptions are the culprit of duplicate content on the Internet.
To get sites going and products selling online, many sites will just feed the manufacturer’s description directly into the site. The issue is that this creates multiple pages on the Internet that have the same product, product number in most cases, price (also the same in most cases), and descriptions. The photos are the same as well!
This poses the question for users: Where do I buy this product? So they ask a search engine. All that a search engine understands is the text on the page, links to the page, and the authority of the site overall. When it comes to a robot crawling a page, the stuff that makes it different is the content in the middle (in the red box).
How do they decide what site is best if the text is the same on every page and most of these pages have no links? The authority of the site, but that is usually the same too. The users and search engines are left with who they trust the most. Who wins that? Walmart. Target. Amazon. And sometimes the manufacturer. Sometimes.
Why Does Amazon Win EVERY TIME?
In short: they invest in their site. They invest in site content, site structure, on-site search, and experience.
Amazon has unique content written for their top products. They are the pioneers of user reviews. They post user-generated content in the form of images and video. They ensure that a user can search for and find any product quickly and easily.
On top of all of that, their buying process is seamless. For someone deep rooted into their ecosystem, buying a product takes three clicks max from the homepage. A customer can pay with their credit card points, get free returns for specific products, and upon returning an item sometimes just get to keep the item. Amazon has a well-designed ecosystem and backs that up with investing in the products they sell.
They are not unbeatable though …
As a manufacturer or brand that makes and sells products, you are in a unique position to dominate the web for your product names. Read that sentence again.
You have the power.
I did a research study for a client (retail) and published it on SEOmoz. It’s called eCommerce Syndicated Content: How to Win. In that article, I noted that for a product chosen at random (pictured above) because I knew it was sold on a number of sites (including Amazon.com and the manufacturer’s site), the top three sites were Zappos, an unknown, and the manufacturer. Why not Amazon? They changed the product name because “nipper” is not a common term people search for. Amazon renamed it The Bodum Fyrkat Tongs. “Tongs” is a much more common term than “nipper.”
Tip: Research product names before naming them something innovative. Blend innovation with real terms people search for online.
The two sites other than the manufacturer were Zappos and Maple Run Emporiums. Who? Zappos we know, and they rank because they do all the things Amazon does, as mentioned above. They have unique content, unique videos they produce themselves, and a great business model. We get them. What about Maple Run Emporiums? They ranked because they were the only site to not use the manufacturer description, choosing rather to use a one-sentence description. One sentence!
And the manufacturer ranked because they were actually the best result, but ranked third because their description was the same as the bulk of retailers selling that product.
Rank as a Manufacturer and Keep Retail Distributors
Now that you understand the issue, here are the keys to ranking for your own products over the retailers you distribute to while keeping in their good graces.
- Write unique content for your products and expand into images and video
Your product page should have more information about the product than anyone else. Focus on users, make it easy to ask questions and get answers. Your page has to be the best.
- Ban distributors and other sites from using your content via contract
I kid you not. You would protect a copyright infringement on a product name. Why not protect your other investments as well? How much is it worth to you to rank for your product name for the next 10 years? You want to protect that. Write it in the contract and enforce violations with fines.
- Give them content to use
Here is the kicker: you have to give them content they can use easily. Many sites are just going to want the facts, something to put on the page. You want the content to be good enough to help them sell, but not better than yours. See the balance there? Create content, create a feed for retailers to pull from, but make sure it’s not your great content.
- Bonus tip to increase sales: Train them to write their own content
Sounds weird to say to someone, “I am telling you how to win on the Internet,” but if you give your retailers tips like those on my blog post at SEOmoz, you potentially could have your product taking up the top 10 results for a broader query. No matter who they pick, you win in sales. You could leave this out, but do consider it down the line.
I hope these tips can help you rank better online for the products you own and sell. If you spend the time and money to get it right, I guarantee return on investment. Remember, it’s not just content, but that is the bulk of the issue. If you all help, we can eradicate duplicate content on the web and give users the selection they deserve when looking for products online.
An SEO whiz, Kate joined Distilled after a year running her own search marketing consultancy in Austin, Texas. She brought with her a wealth of experience having worked in-house and agency-side in SEO and PPC.
A native Texan by birth, Kate got her BBA from The University of Texas at Austin in marketing and her MBA from Texas State University–San Marcos. She spends most of her Saturdays in the fall screaming at the television as she watches her Texas Longhorns play football. In her own words, she bleeds orange. (Hook ’em!) When she isn’t on her beloved Macbook playing with metrics, code, and marketing campaigns, Kate enjoys reading, Crossfit, and all things outdoors.
You can catch her speaking at events such as PubCon, Affiliate Summit, SMX, and many other search-related shows.