Duplicate content can be a huge problem for websites, and updates like Google Panda have made it clear that Google is doing everything they can to punish sites for copying content and having duplicate pages on their websites.
Not only can it cause those individual pages not to rank as high, but it can also give your entire site a penalty and send your organic traffic to zero overnight. The only way to solve this is to ensure that you have no duplicate content on your website.
Why is Duplicate Content a Problem?
The reason why it’s a problem is that Google doesn’t want to waste their resources indexing multiple copies of a page, they hate plagiarism, and they don’t want you to manipulate their algorithm. To prevent this, they punish sites for having duplicate content and these penalties can last for months or years and can drastically impact your revenue.
Why is it Common for E-Commerce Websites?
Duplicate content is particularly common among e-commerce websites because they often have tens of thousands of pages, or more, while most sites are only tens of pages. With all those extra pages it’s far more likely that content will be duplicated.
Plus, many of those product and category pages are automatically generated using a template. Anything which is templated, especially at scale, is more likely to trigger this type of penalty if you’re not careful with your on-page SEO.
The majority of e-commerce stores have some option for their customers to filter their product pages. On a clothes store, you may be able to filter to only show men’s clothes, in your particular size, and in a specific color. Depending on how this filtering is handled it can create duplicate pages.
If the filtering appears in the URL, it’s creating duplicate pages. Unless you are using rel=canonical and even no-indexing pages, Google is going to index all of those pages as if they are separate pages when they are only filtered versions of the same content.
Failure to manage this on-page SEO issue is going to cause duplicates of every single product category that you have, which is most likely to lead to a site-wide penalty because the problem is so widespread.
Unique Product Pages
When you are uploading new products through software that uses templates, you are unlikely to have any unique content on your product pages. Why would Google want to index and rank your product pages when they are almost identical with only different product images and titles?
If there is no serious amount of unique content, they are going to count that against you, preventing you from ranking those pages for any profitable keywords. To fix this issue, we need to ensure that your product pages have a large amount of unique content on them that is optimized for the keywords that you want to rank them for.
For sites in relatively low competition industries with thousands of product pages, this change alone can have a notable impact on your bottom line and is often well-worth investing in.
Blog Category and Search Pages
More and more e-commerce stores are launching blogs because they recognize that it’s a fantastic way to add more content to their site so that they can rank for at the top of the funnel keywords. But if you’re not careful, those words can easily be duplicated across your category and search pages of the blog.
If you are categorizing your blog posts, then you should ideally avoid showing the post in its entirety on those category pages. After all, why would Google want to index the same article on two separate pages?
The same is true of any search pages within the blog section of your site. If people can search and the entire blog post appears on the search results page, Google is going to consider that to be duplicated content. Fixing this via correct on-page SEO and no-indexing is vital to prevent a penalty.