Duplicate content from a products feed list (e.g. – affiliate RSS products links) – how to handle it?

  • Let’ say you have an e-commerce web site and you have a products feed from a distributor of your products. Is it OK to list the feed from the products provider, exactly as you are being provided with it?
  • Or let’s say you have a big web site and you distribute your products to other web sites (price comparing web sites, affiliate clients). Is it OK to just take the title & description & photo of your products and give it away freely to others?
  • Or let’ say you start an e-commerce web site with thousands of products. Is it OK to just copy & paste the product description from other web sites?

See the answers to these questions below.

First, let’s see Google’s opinion on this, with a video from July 2013, by Matt Cutts.

(read the full transcript here or here)

Details: Google’s Matt Cutts On Publishers With Duplicate Content: Use The Canonical Tag.

How is this viewed online?

The problem

: “Google has said time and time again, duplicate content issues are rarely a penalty. It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not. Google doesn’t want to show the same content to searchers for the same query; they do like to diversify the results to their searchers.” (Search Engine Land article)

: “It’s only a problem when dozens if not hundreds of other stores sell the exact same product with the exact same content. Then hundreds if not thousands of shopping portals, affilates, coupon sites, etc. promote the same products linking to the above retailers. If 75%+ of your products are word for word from a data feed, you now have a problem.” (details)

activitysuper: “As long as the content is found on your website first before anything else you should be ok with the panda update.
Regarding the datafeed and resellers or affiliates, its just the way it is, they run the risk of being flagged with duplicate content.” (details)


The solution

Solutions to the problem by :

  1. Add content to product pages. Raise the quality and uniqueness of your content by personalizing it to solve your users’ problems. Add information, images, video or suggestions to your content.
  2. Add a “psychology” layer to your content. Typical product descriptions are dull and technical. People, however, buy on emotion and feelings. Bring your product descriptions to life by telling a story. (read more & original article)

What if you have to give a products feed to other web sites? :

  • Manually – Give more information in the feeds you create for other web sites.
  • Change some things, like the order in which the information is presented, automatically.
  • Change image names, automatically.
  • Change the affiliate links, automatically.
  • Manually – add more value to your web site. (read more & original article)

Another idea (see the answers). More. More.


My conclusions?

  • You probably will not get a penalty for having a web site filled with duplicate content.
  • You should get better results if, instead of copying others, or giving others identical feeds with your data, you focus on differentiating.
  • It matters if a content first appeared on your web site.
  • You can do some things automatically. My view on these is that they have little impact.
  • You should focus on the most important things on your web site first. Start with them by making them unique & valuable.
  • Focus, on the long term, to have the vast majority of the content on your web site unique.
  • It is generally hard do get the community involved, and make them comment on your web site. If you think you’re up to the task, create a system in which they are inclined to do so (think about rewarding the people who comment the most in one way or another). UGC (user-generated content) can be of great added-value to a web site.
  • I think that on the long term, Google with get better & better at managing duplicate content.


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