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The question: How can we distribute product descriptions to other websites without being penalized by Google for having duplicate content?
At Welborn Social Media, we make sure to have a deep, thorough, and (most importantly) up to date understanding of how social media works and the latest policies of key internet companies such as Google or Facebook. Every once in a while, a client will come to us with a question that requires us to do a little research, and we see this as an opportunity to learn new information, grow our knowledge, and share our findings with our community.
Such was the case when one of our clients came to us wanting to share their products on the websites of their affiliates.
From working with many clients and getting their websites to rank higher on Google search results, we have learned that Google does not like duplicate content. What is duplicate content? In simple terms, it is when words, images, or entire web pages appear over and over again throughout the internet. Most of the time this is done accidentally or with good intentions, like products sold on different e-commerce sites or sites that have both a normal and a printer-friendly version of a page. Other times duplicate content can be an attempt to gain more links to a site, which could make them rank higher on search results. However Google is not a fan of the latter and will often times penalize sites that are trying to “trick” Google into ranking them higher.
Another problem that arises is that Google will omit web sites that are too similar to each other. If I want to search for an article online, they don’t want the search results to show me 10 different sites with the same article. They want to show me several different articles. Sometimes a site will publish a story and also have that story published on five other sites. Google is then forced to choose only one of those to display. If a webmaster does not know what they are doing, they can run into a problem where their site is not showing up because other sites are being displayed instead of theirs.
So what are people with legitimate reasons for having duplicate content to do?
The solution lies in a line of HTML code known as the Canonical Tag.
The canonical tag is a way for websites to point towards the original (or canonical) source of content and give them all the credit, ensuring that Google displays them over any other copies of the content. It is a way for people to publish their content on several sites, without making it seem like they are simply trying to trick Google into thinking that the content is important and should be ranked higher. However, it does mean that all the non-canonical copies of the content won’t show up on search engines, only the version that they are all pointing to will show up. In most cases, this is not really a problem because people can still access those pages by clicking through any website where a duplicate may be found. Because the canonical tag is all about giving proper credit, instead of taking undeserved credit, it can be used to have duplicate content online without problems.
That said, there are still methods that Google considers “best practices” and would be preferable over the canonical tag. Fresh, original, unique content will always be preferred over copy and pasting. So the best way to go about duplicate content would be ensuring that content is not actually duplicate. If you want to share the same text, image, or link, it would be best to always frame it in a new and unique way for every web page that it is on. Google’s policies are always changing and what is acceptable today may not be acceptable in the future. To safeguard against having to redo your web page in the future, just make it unique to begin with.