Duplicate Product Descriptions – Why You Shouldn’t Copy Suppliers

Duplicate Product Descriptions – Why You Shouldn’t Copy Suppliers

If any of you have ever heard me speak at retail events or marketing conferences then you’ll know I have a fairly ingrained hatred of bad website content. To me, if you can’t be bothered to provide your website visitors with something to look at and read then you shouldn’t be too surprised if nobody visits and your bank balance withers as a result.

Having said that, I do sympathise with online retailers, having seen the amount of work that has to go into setting up and maintaining a good eCommerce website. Think about it. When you set up an online store you not only have to source images for all of your many products, you also have to provide descriptions and construct sensible product titles before you even get started on setting up postage rates, payment systems and worrying if the pantones you chose for your logo properly reflect your brand image!

This in all probability is why choosing to use supplier supplied descriptions for products is far too tempting. It’s an easy way to complete a task in an ever-expanding list of things to do before you can afford to switch off for the night.

I’m going to tell you why you should resist taking the easy way out. Bear with me… I guarantee this one will change your eCommerce prospects (and your bank balance!)

The Purpose of a Product Description

Product descriptions have two main purposes. The first is to add content for search engines. This gives you a fighting chance of bringing in visitors to the web page your product is displayed on. The second purpose is to act as your online salesperson for that product.

Top quality content works on both levels: Firstly, Google relies on the content in your website to tell what each page is about. If you don’t supply the right content (read: product description text, images, videos, links) then Google won’t be able to tell what that page is about and hence you will have little chance of appearing in search results.

Secondly, with an eCommerce website you have no salesperson present. Your website is a catalogue which people can browse through in the comfort of their own homes. What you must bear in mind is that with access to Google or any other search engine, people can easily and quickly find many other websites selling the products you are offering and compare information and prices.

This means if your product pages don’t immediately sell your website and company as trustworthy, reliable and contact-able then you’ve already lost the sale. Your potential customer is already back into Google to find another website they can trust!

A top-quality product description is key to getting your pages found then selling your products and there really is no way round this!

Why Not Use Supplier Descriptions?

Google works on a ‘first past the post’ system for website content. If content has been seen before then hundreds of other factors come into play. This means if your website doesn’t have an external link profile that’s as strong as your competitor’s website then your competitor is going to win out if you both use the same product description.

If, however you provide unique, lengthy product descriptions and sensible product titles on your product pages you have an immediate advantage on your competitor’s pages. This is because you’re not only providing unique content to Google, people will stay on your pages longer to read the description. As time spent on a page and bounce rate are also a ranking factors, this means Google will be taking notice and giving your product page a small boost in ranking estimation.

Back your unique descriptions up with other interesting content on your product pages such as images taken from multiple angles (with a high resolution zoom function), reviews for that product from other customers, videos, reassurance messages telling people why they should trust and buy from you and you’re onto a winner, not only with the people who already know about your website but also with Google.

What Do Google Say?

Despite some online suggesting that ‘Rewriting Product Descriptions Won’t Help You Win’, what Google actually say on the matter is that it’s not enough to simply rewrite a ‘couple of words’. You really do have to provide an attractive proposition to the visitors on your website, with content that Google hasn’t seen before and considers to be useful to potential website visitors.

That means providing information about that product which other websites don’t provide as well as showing website visitors that you are the people to buy from. In other words… completely re-write the product description so that it better informs the customer. Remember, product descriptions are your ‘virtual salespeople’, so need to entice people to buy. With all the will in the World, you’re never going to do that with a bad product description or one hastily re-worded from a supplier.

Here at Intelligent Retail we have seen many examples where re-writing supplier descriptions and having a sensible, brand/product related product title on-page can shift search results for a product from sub page three to top three results in Google and that’s just the start of the benefits of putting in the effort to re-write.

I can do no better than to quote the first line from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on how to ‘help Google understand your pages’, where they state: “Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.“

Sounds like great advice to me!


David Fairhurst

Head of eCommerce

Intelligent Retail

David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair and SES London