09 Jan 2012

The Duplicate Product Description Quagmire

When you’re doing frequent SEO site reviews, two of the words that come up the most are “duplicate content”. Now there are a lot of reasons and ways for content to be deemed as duplicate and some situations are more troublesome than others.  But one in particular seems to present a unique problem for many e-commerce sites. Product descriptions are a requirement, without them no one would know what they were buying.  The problem is a lot of people sell the same stuff.  From digital cameras to baby bedding there are frequently multiple carriers of every item.  And they’re all using the same product descriptions.


Does It Really Matter?

So you have 200 words of duplicate content on your product pages.  So what? Well that’s a fair question. Is it really a make or break factor if you have duplicate product descriptions? Honestly, duplicate product descriptions are most often not the biggest on-site issue any site is facing.  If that’s the only duplicate content you have on your entire site it’s probably not the end of the world.

Just understand that if all of your product pages only feature 200 words of duplicate content, and you have thousands of those pages with numerous occurrences of off-site duplication, it’s not adding any value to your site. And In the online marketplace, you want to give yourself every advantage possible, any small way you can distinguish yourself, matters.

Many large sites are seeing the benefits of long-tail rankings especially when it comes to specific products. Having a product page rank for that product’s name helps you reach users that know exactly what they want. These kinds of searchers are often in the “buying” frame of mind that results in a conversion.  Optimizing and increasing the quality of your product pages can help improve both rankings and user experience.

So what do you do to set yourself apart?


User Generated Content

One of the easiest ways to add a new copy to product pages is user generated content. You can keep your canned product description,  but by allowing and encouraging users to post reviews, comments and feedback on products you can often acquire tons of free, unique content. The drawbacks are of course, apathy and negativity.

Getting people to leave comments can be like trying to get children to bathe.  They know they should, but they just don’t feel like it. That’s why incentive programs are so vital. Future discounts are an easy and effective carrot to offer.

It’s also a risk that you’ll see a number of negative reviews, but it goes with the territory in business. But if you’re confident in your business and your products you should be open to the feedback even when it isn’t full of cuddles and sunshine.  In fact the way you deal with criticism and complaints can say a lot about the integrity of your business. Of course if it’s spam or completely false, you can just get rid of it.

Don’t forget social media, you can collect comments from your Facebook Wall or Twitter account that can double as content for the appropriate products.

The easiest way to make your product pages unique is to let your customers do it for you. But in order to do this, you have to whip up some serious interest and brand loyalty in your customers.  It’s interesting because if you try to encourage engagement for the sake of improving your product pages, you may discover numerous other benefits as well.  The efforts you make to get people involved may be seen in more frequent discussions of your brand and more return visitors. People like shopping at places where they are already invested and have had a satisfying consumer experience.


Re-Write & Re Imagine

If you want to take full measures and shoot for total content superiority you can re-write your standard product description and or totally pimp your product ages. Yeah UGC is awesome because it makes other people work for you. But if you’re willing to have your team put in the effort you can really make product pages worthwhile destinations.

Unique Descriptions:

It’s so much easier to repeat what Sony tells you about their Stereo or to parrot how Adidas describes their sneakers, but it’s not winning you any points. Find a way to say it differently and if you can, better.

More Details:

Go beyond the stock description and find more details on a product, the history or references in popular culture. You can provide links to other resources on the product, its maker, or the context in which it is used. For example if the product is cookware, you could describe the primary cooking style for each piece within a set.  Heck, you could provide some recipes.  The more you can offer, the more useful the page becomes.

Images:

How many different ways can someone examine a product in their hands? Well figure it out and attempt to simulate that experience on your website. Think deeper than just the standard front and back.

Videos:

Adding video to product pages allows you to get even more in-depth on how to use products. If the item doesn’t warrant an extended “how-to” then let your creativity run rampant. Advertisements, parodies, montages, testimonials and any other number of themes can be turned into a video. You can also host these on a YouTube Channel to create even more entryways to your site.


Get Your Priorities Straight

To re-visit my point form earlier, these are all terrific options for improving your product pages, but if you have bigger problems, get those hammered out first.  Duplicate product descriptions are nothing compared to hundreds of scraped articles, or pages that only contain ad blocks and 2 sentences.  Deal with your canonical issues, create a precise and well thought out site architecture, build links, and get objective insight on your usability to examine the holes in your conversion process.

But when you’ve covered all of your bases and you’re still looking for a way to make inroads in the rankings take a good look at your product pages. If they aren’t much more than a standard product description you’ve struck an area where you can do better.

If you have thousands or products, don’t get immediately overwhelmed. Focus first on the most popular products and the most highly searched products but also look at the items that convert best and those that make you the most money. Build that list and work your way down.  You can’t do everything at once, but there’s no time to be complacent in online marketing, there’s always a way to make your site better, and your product pages could be a goldmine of opportunities.

How else can you make your product pages outstanding?

Comments

  1. Bonnie Stefanick January 10, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Hey Jen – In your section Re-Write and Re imagine, you bring up lots of awesome ways to spice up pages. ….to your question, the more you mash things up the better, because it makes your pages look less thin. Images are awesome because you can alt text em up but even adding something like a google map or you can do some UGC by having a ‘leave a review/ option on those pages and using rich snippets to make those pages pop more in search. Awesome post ^_^

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