Google’s John Mueller addressed the question of how Google handles product descriptions that are the same for different merchandise, resulting in duplicate content. Mueller downplayed anything negative happening from the duplicate content and offered offered creative suggestions on how to help Google do a better job of ranking product pages for products that are largely similar.

Different Products But Same Descriptions

The person asking the question was concerned about how Google would handle ranking  ecommerce web pages for different products that have a similar description.

This specific situation involved handmade shoes for a specific age group that are created with the same material and techniques, with the only variation being in the design of the shoe.

The question asked was:

“Would it be counted as duplicate content by Google if I write one …high quality product description for all?

Or is it better to have unique descriptions for each one, which reduces the quality of the content?”

John Mueller Advises What To Do About Duplicate Product Descriptions

Screenshot of John Mueller advising what to do about duplicate product descriptions

Unique Content Does Not Reduce Content Quality

Mueller began his answer by expressing doubt about whether unique content might reduce the quality of the content. He asserted that product descriptions could be both unique and high quality.


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Google Doesn’t Demote Sites For Duplicate Content

John Mueller next returned to the main question about duplicate content.

Mueller continued:

“We would probably see this as duplicate content but we would not demote a website because of duplicate content.

So from a practical point of view, what would happen is if someone is searching for a piece of text that is within this duplicated description on your pages, then we would recognize that this piece of text is found on a bunch of pages on your website and we would try to just pick maybe one or two pages from your website to show.

So it’s not that we would demote your website or… penalize the website in any way because it has duplicate content.”

Doesn’t Make Sense to Show Multiple Pages Of Same Content

Mueller next explained that it’s simply a practical consideration why Google limits the number of similar pages from the same site that are shown in the search results.


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John Mueller said:

“It’s more from a practical point of view we recognize you have this content on a lot of your pages.

So if someone is searching specifically for that content it doesn’t make sense for us to show all of those pages.

And that’s… reasonable when people are searching for a piece of content.

They don’t need to find all of the pages within your website that have that piece of content.”

How to Help Google Rank Similar Products

Mueller next stressed the importance of using text to explain what the products look like. He cautioned that failure to adequately describe what a product looks like may have a negative effect on search presence.

Mueller continued his answer with this bit of cautionary advice:

“The thing I think to… watch out for here is if you don’t have anything in the textual content at all that covers… the visual element of your products, then it makes it very hard for us to actually show these properly in the search results.

So for example, you mentioned you have handmade shoes. If you have blue shoes and red shoes and you never mentioned which color these shoes are in, then if someone is searching for blue shoes, we might think, well your pages are not that relevant because you don’t mention the word blue anywhere on your pages.

So that’s… the angle I would take here is it’s fine to have parts of the description duplicated. But I would definitely make sure that you at least have something in there that really has text about the visual elements that are unique to those individual products that you’re selling.

So that’s kind of the direction I would go.”

Duplicate Content Makes It Hard For Google To Rank Pages

Mueller said that Google won’t demote a site for duplicate content. But he also said that a lack of text content that describes the visual quality of a product makes it harder for Google to rank those pages.

So if the products descriptions of similar products are the same, try to find the words to accurately describe the big and small things that make the individual product different, like what its intended use is, but John especially encouraged ecommerce publishers to focus on writing text that describes what makes the one product visually different from another product.


How Google Deals With Duplicate Product Descriptions

Watch at 45:10 Minute Mark

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By Rose Milev

I always want to learn something new. SEO is my passion.

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