As an identical twin, duplication is a topic close to my heart. 

Content duplication is more and more prevalent and can lead to serious search losses, irrespective of who created the original.

Resellers should be particularly vigilant given that they have product listings that will have inherent similarities with other reseller and brand websites.

In this post I'll look at how ecommerce sites are being penalised in Google SERPs for having duplicate content...

1. Sports Direct and the Ralph Lauren jumper

Let's look at one example. Below you'll see remarkably similar webpages from three of Sports Direct's brands, Cruise, Flannels and Van Mildert.

Each page is advertising the same product, using the same URL structure (/polo-ralph-lauren-embroidered-logo-knitted-jumper/551125/) and the same product copy. These pages are live at time of writing, so feel free to go check them out.

cruise ralph lauren webpage

flannels webpage

van mildert webpage

So what does Google think?

This is obviously an extreme case. The websites in this example are very similar and intentionally so. Sports Direct is keeping costs down by using the same creative and web infrastructure across multiple brands and domains.

But, using analysis from Intelligent Positioning, we can look at the ranking of these three pages for the phrase 'polo ralph lauren knitted jumper' and see that these websites are suffering the consequences of such similar content.

There can be only one, as each page is periodically 'dislodged' by another. The Flannels page has ranked highest (between 10 and 20) for the past three months but during this time has suffered daily or weekly drops to 100+ in the SERPs.

(click to enlarge)

search performance of resellers 

And what should we take from this?

If you are a content manager working for a reseller, you have to make sure that those creating product pages are doing so responsibly.

Newbies must be properly trained on the basics of SEO, from metadata to URL structure and on-page elements.

Encourage writers to take the time to create their own product copy, the more copious, the better. Product copy doesn't have to be boring, it can be as rich as proper editorial.

The more unique the content is, the better. Of course, if you're in the position of Sports Direct, you have to be doubly careful (running two sites with an overlapping product range).

Sam Silverwood-Cope, director, Intelligent Positioning, points out that content creators must track their terms to keep abreast of search performance. Stolen content can then be reported to Google or a writer's own misguided work or errors can be corrected.

Having content stolen can be an extremely frustrating and costly issue. It looks like there is a flaw in Google’s algorithm when it deals with duplicate content.

The best thing to do is track your terms and see if others are harming your site. You can only see this flipping of positions if you have daily URL tracking. If you see unexplained fluctuations, then digging deeper, ultimately you can report the abuser to Google. 

2. 8x8 and the call centre software

Here's another example, this time from the B2B world.

The top screenshot shows the original content on the 8x8 website. The one below shows the reseller, advertising the 8x8 product and using copy and imagery taken from the original.

8x8 webpage

8x8 webpage

8x8 reseller webpage

8x8 reseller webpage

We can see the same position switching in the SERPs

This time the problem occurs often only for a day at a time, the reseller jumping above 8x8, which loses five or 10 positions in the SERPs for the phrase 'contact centre software integration'.

The solution here has to be found by the brand. 8x8 must be more aware of reseller activity, both their site content and their comparative rankings.

Unless content is unique, there's always the chance that the sum of the parts for this brand and its resellers might not be quite as large as it could be when it comes to search.

(Click to enlarge)

google rankings for 8x8 and reseller 

For more information on SEO, read the Econsultancy SEO Best Practice Guide.

Ben Davis

Published 5 October, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

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Helmut Berie, Product Manager at SLI Systems

Hi there,
Not sure about the use of "penalized". What you are showing is that any point in time only one version of the page is ranking "top". But even that isn't entirely true as in both examples multiple versions of the page are shown to rank concurrently in similar positions.
To penalize (to me) would mean that after the realization has occurred that there are duplicates only one version is considered authoritative and all other versions stop ranking.
Clearly that doesn't appear to be the case.

almost 2 years ago

Andrew McGarry

Andrew McGarry, Managing Director at McGarry Fashion

Given that domain link metrics and page level link metrics are incredibly influential, you would have to factor these in in your site comparison to draw a conclusion.

Simply stating "Google penalised resellers for duplicate content" is inaccurate.

Google looks at ecommerce pages differently to non-ecommerce pages.

Non-ecom pages have a genuine issue of who published first, especially in the medical and scientific fields.

Do you really think Google cares THAT much about who published a product description first when something like Microsoft Office is sold by a lot of retailers across the net. Think about that for a minute.

Most stores selling the same product will use the same press blurb and product description. The site with the best link profile is best placed to rank highest.

If you give your product page original content, you may receive a ranking benefit, it's not that the others were penalised.

Amazon is a great example of building product pages so that they contain the basic info that every other reseller has PLUS their own extra info along with reviews, video, and all the other ranking signal boosters.

But topical trust matters, otherwise Amazon's link profile would beat every other retailer on the web.

So yes, make your product page as unique as you can. But without the right links and topical trust, you're missing out on other massive signals.

almost 2 years ago

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Sakshi Singh, Blogger at Blogging

Hi,
I’ve a question about duplicate content from an other page on my own blog (the same).
Is there any problem with this kind of duplication..?

over 1 year ago

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