Dealing with Duplicate Content: SEO Best Practices for E-commerce Sellers
If you've been in the e-commerce game for any length of time, then you already know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial component of your business's success.
However, one issue with SEO that many e-commerce businesses don't even realize they're struggling with is the presence of duplicate content on their website or search engine results pages (SERPs).
Duplicate content in SEO can have a detrimental effect on your website’s overall performance and rankings, which naturally has a negative downstream effect on your online store's organic traffic and conversions.
That's why it’s vital that you become aware of the presence of duplicate content and take the necessary steps to mitigate it. In this blog post, we'll discuss what duplicate content is and how e-commerce sellers like you can employ best practices to check for and prevent it from affecting your business's SEO efforts.
What's the Big Deal about Duplicate Content?
SEO works by helping search engine bots crawl and index websites for the purpose of understanding them better. This means that when search engine bots trawl through your website, they're looking for unique content to determine which pages should be ranked higher than others.
But if the same content appears in multiple places on your website or across the SERPs, then it's not as helpful to SEO efforts and can ultimately result in a decrease in rankings.
What Qualifies as "Duplicate Content"?
Duplicate content is any piece of content that appears more than once on your website or in other websites’ search results. This can be caused by multiple copies of a page appearing in the same domain, such as alternate versions with different URLs, or when content from your site is indexed and used by other websites without your permission.
Duplicate content can have an adverse effect on SEO because it confuses search engine crawlers and makes it difficult for them to determine which version of the page should be ranked higher in SERPs.
When Google or Bing's search engine bots encounter this duplicate content, they don't know which version to prioritize in SERPs, so they often will end up removing both versions from the index completely.
This can result in decreased organic rankings, fewer page views, and lower conversions due to a lack of visibility on SERPs. As a result, e-commerce sellers should check for duplicate content to ensure their website’s visibility and ranking performance don't suffer.
It's Not Just About the Money, Either!
In addition to its potential impact on SEO rankings, duplicate content can also damage an e-commerce business's reputation if they're involved in "content scraping." This term refers to the practice of taking someone else's content without their permission and using it as their own.
Not only can this lead to legal action against the offending party, but it can also damage the company's credibility and public perception.
For all these reasons, it's essential that you do what's in your power to prevent duplicate content from appearing on your websites or in SERPs. This includes regularly monitoring Google Search Console for any instances of duplicate content or copyright infringement.
It also means making sure every page on your website is properly canonicalized with a rel=canonical tag pointing to the original URL (more on that later).
How to Find Duplicate Content
Every e-commerce business wants to maximize its organic search engine rankings, but many don’t realize that duplicate content can be a major factor in hindering those efforts. Here are some basic ways to find duplicate content that may be wrecking your SEO results:
A website crawler, such as Screaming Frog or Lumar, can work as a duplicate content checker and quickly find duplicate content pages across multiple areas of your website.
By analyzing the code of each page on the site, these tools will identify if any sections of text have been copy-and-pasted multiple times. They also show you which URLs are causing duplication so those can be fixed.
If you don’t have access to a crawler like the ones mentioned above, you can manually go through your store’s pages and check for any similar phrases or chunks of text that appear on more than one page.
To make sure you’ve found all the duplicates, make sure to do this periodically with fresh eyes. If you have any employees, you can recruit them for this task or at least have them double-check your work.
Plagiarism Scanning Software
For content posted on external websites, such as product descriptions, you can use Plagiarism Scanning Software such as Copyscape (currently still free to use!) to detect any material copied from other websites.
These programs use sophisticated algorithms to compare each piece of content across the web and identify any matches.
Finally, you can check for duplicate content on your own site by running a simple Google search of your website’s URLs with quotes around the text. The results should contain only pages with the exact phrase that was searched for – if there are multiple posts with the same phrasing, then you have duplicate content on your hands!
Once you’ve identified where the duplicate page or content is located, it’s time to strategize how to fix it and avoid future duplication issues. Taking a proactive approach will ensure that your e-commerce business keeps its organic search engine rankings intact and earns more traffic in the long run!
SEO Best Practices for Keeping Duplicate Content in Check
Following SEO best practices is essential for ensuring that your e-commerce website's performance remains top-notch and doesn't suffer due to unnecessary duplicate content issues.
Here are some ways to keep duplicate content from continually cropping up and plaguing your store.
- Set up a URL structure that is clear and organized in order to minimize duplicate content issues. This means creating custom URLs for each product page that are easy-to-understand, descriptive, and content-specific.
- Monitor all incoming link sources to be aware of any potential duplicate content issues from external sites linking to yours. This includes shopping comparison sites and other third-party platforms.
- Use canonical tags in HTML to tell search engines which version of the page should be indexed. This helps ensure that only one source is being indexed with the right information about your e-commerce business’s products.
- Handle user-generated content carefully since it could potentially generate multiple URLs with minor differences between them (e.g., the same page or blog post with slightly different titles). If left unchecked, this could result in SEO penalties for having too much duplicate content on your website.
- Check for duplicate content regularly with tools such as Siteliner, which allows you to quickly scan and identify any potential issues in the e-commerce store’s URLs, titles, meta tags, headings, and more.
Remember that having an effective SEO strategy in place is just as important as the logistics, fulfillment, pricing, and other aspects of running a successful e-commerce business. Make sure to keep on top of your SEO game and use these tips to prevent any potential penalties from search engine bots!
Ultimate Optimization Tips
So you've purged your site of any egregious duplicate content and have set things up to limit duplicates showing up in the future. How do you optimize your site even further so that even future duplicate content won't hold your site back from dominating SERPs?
One method to ensure that your website is optimized for search engines despite any potential duplicate pages is to use unique meta descriptions. Meta descriptions should be specific and relevant to each page, providing a concise summary of the content.
Not only will this help differentiate pages on your website, but it will also increase click-through rates from search engine result pages as users are more likely to click on an informative and engaging description. Additionally, using unique titles and headings can also help differentiate between similarly named pages or products on your website.
Structured Data Markup
Another way to optimize your website to overcome duplicate content is to use structured data markup. Structured data markup helps search engines better understand what type of content is on a webpage. This increased the likelihood of the bots crawling and indexing the page correctly.
For e-commerce businesses, this means marking up product details such as price, availability, brand name, and other essential information about the product so that search engine bots can easily identify it from other similar products listed online.
E-commerce websites need to make sure their internal linking structures are optimized for SEO as well. Make sure that you are linking directly from your homepage and category pages to individual product pages. This will establish clear paths of navigation for users and search engine bots alike.
Monitor Content Across Platforms
Finally, monitoring duplicate content across all platforms can help keep track of any potential issues before they become major problems down the line.
Sites like Copyscape provide helpful tools for checking if your web pages are being copied by other sites, which could lead to a duplicate content penalty from search engine bots for having too much of the same content on your site.
In addition, Google Search Console provides resources such as robots .txt files, which allow you to control what pages should and shouldn't be indexed by search engines. This protects against any important internal pages getting lost in the mix due to duplication issues.
E-commerce businesses must stay vigilant in their efforts to avoid duplicate content issues, and the best way to do this is by following SEO best practices.
From setting up URL parameters that are clear and organized to handling user-generated content carefully and checking regularly with tools like Siteline, there are loads of methods you can take advantage of to make sure your website remains optimized despite any potential duplicates.
If all of these sound overwhelming, or if you want help putting these tactics into practice, BlueTuskr's team of experts offers web design and SEO services tailored specifically to e-commerce stores. Talk to us if you want our help boosting your ranking in SERPs today.