Google’s John Mueller in an SEO Office Hours hangout answered how Google handles product descriptions that are duplicates from the manufacturers. Mueller assured that it’s not a problem and described what Google does to choose which page to show in the search results.
How to Get Around Duplicate Content Issues?
The person asking the question was concerned about an ecommerce store that uses the stock product descriptions from the manufacturer. He wanted to know if there was a way to avoid any negative ranking consequences from duplicate product descriptions that were taken from the manufacturer.
The person asking the question asked if linking to the original source might be a way to avoid duplicate content issues.
Google’s John Mueller on Using Manufacturer Product Descriptions
There are No Duplicate Content Penalties
John Mueller started out by answering that they don’t need to link to the original source in order to avoid the consequences of duplicate content.
He explained that the reason he didn’t have to take that step was because there is no algorithmic penalty or harm from duplicate content.
“So there are two aspects here, when it comes to duplicate content.
First of all, you don’t get a penalty for duplicate content.
So …even before you look into it too much, the only time we would have something like a penalty or an algorithmic action or manual action is when the whole website is purely duplicated content, …if it’s one website that is scraping other websites for example.
If these are ecommerce sites and you have the description that’s the same and the rest of your website is different, that’s perfectly fine.
You don’t need to worry about any demotion or dropping in ranking or anything.”
How Google Analyzes Websites for Duplicate Content
Mueller then shared how Google handles the specific situation of product resellers who publish manufacturer product descriptions.
He went into detail about how Google is okay with ranking pages that feature product descriptions that are the same as on the manufacturer’s website.
John Mueller explained:
“With duplicate content we have essentially two, roughly, different things that we look at.
On the one hand we check if the whole page is the same.
And that includes everything like the header and the footer and the address of the store and things like that, which in your case this would not be the case because one is maybe a manufacturer’s website and the description is the same but everything around it is different.
So that’s kind of the basic kind of duplicate content.”
How Google Ranks Pages with Duplicate Product Descriptions
Mueller next explained the considerations that go into ranking web pages that feature duplicate content.
“The other kind is with regards to things like a description. That plays a role when we show a snippet in the search results.
So essentially what we try to avoid is to create search results pages where the snippet is exactly the same as other websites.
If someone is searching for something generic which is only in the description of that product and the snippet that we would show for your website, for the manufacturer were exactly the same, then we would try to pick one of those pages and show only that one.
That’s kind of the other part of the duplicate content story… it’s a little bit simplified.
But that also means that if someone is searching for …something generic that is in the description and we can tell that they want to buy it and maybe you’re the best source or the local source of that product or you have it in stock or whatever, then we will show your pages and not the other one.
And all of that is independent of you marking up like where you took the description from.
It’s essentially, we have this description, we want to show it in search and we’ll pick the best page that we can show for this description. So from that point of view I think it’s always a good practice to have unique descriptions on your pages.
But if you have a lot of products it’s not always possible.
And it’s also the case that we would not penalize a website for having duplicate descriptions in their products.”
Duplicate Product Descriptions are Okay with Google
While it’s relatively well known that there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty, it’s generally less well known how Google uses things like the header and footer to determine that a page is a store and that it is distinct from the manufacturer whose product is for sale at that store.
Another interesting point Mueller made is that Google doesn’t want to populate the search results with the same exact snippets for every ranked web page.
That might seem obvious but it’s something that some might ignore in the race to rank for “Keyword XYZ” by adding those keywords to the title tag and headings even though two or three competitors already rank with the exact same keywords in their titles, ignoring the fact that Google ranks pages with synonyms in the title…
Mueller also noted circumstances where Google would choose to rank a reseller over the manufacturer:
- When the user intent to buy is clear and the reseller is the best source for the product
- The reseller is local and a local retailer is the best result
Overall, Mueller provided several interesting things to think about.
How Google Chooses Product Pages with Content Duplicated from Manufacturers
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 55 minute mark: