Posted: March 2, 2016, 1:57 PM

Q: How can a manufacturer make production descriptions available to retailers that sell its products?

How can a manufacturer make production descriptions available to retailers that sell its products and still have the manufacturer’s own website recognized by Google as the original source of the content? (I've heard of Google+ Authorship tags but that seems more appropriate for blogs, not corporate product descriptions.)

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A: I would recommend that you have one description which you use on your own site and offer e-retailers an alternate description.

Google is generally reasonably good at determining that the manufacturer’s site deserves to rank highly, or even number one, for the content within a product description. They take numerous factors into consideration, including backlink data, your domain name, where the content appeared first, and numerous other factors. There is no way of guaranteeing however that if content is duplicated across numerous sites that Google will always consider the manufacturer’s site the best result. In many cases, a site with massive link equity, such as Amazon, can outrank a manufacturer’s site, even if the manufacturer’s site should be considered the “authority”.

Google authorship tags are not really intended for product descriptions. Google makes little distinction between content duplicated across sites as to whether it is articles or product descriptions. If you have proper product semantic markup on your product pages that’s one way of helping to ensure that Google can decipher that this is a “product.” In many respects, as far as Google is concerned, duplicate content is duplicate content. It may be that the most authoritative source ranks first and the others below it, but it is also possible that whichever source is seen as the “canonical” source may be the only one which ranks or appears in the search engine result pages.

When I am auditing an e-commerce site which duplicates manufacturers’ descriptions on a wide scale, I recommend that the company rewrites the descriptions so as to stand out from all of the other sites that use that same description. From a unique content perspective, all manufacturers and e-commerce sites should write a unique description for every product, but that is probably not feasible under real-world conditions.

If you want to stand out from the e-commerce sites which offer your products, I would recommend that you have one description which you use on your own site and offer e-retailers an alternate description. This is more work on your part when setting up a new product to begin with, but is still the best option for ensuring that you don’t appear as duplicate content mixed in with all of your online distributors. As a manufacturer, when you periodically check for duplicate content, or when you send a product feed to an e-retailer you can request that they use the “retailer” product description or data as opposed to the content on your website.

This obviously takes more management on your part, but having truly unique content on your site is still the best option for ensuring that you preserve your “hard-earned SEO equity”.

Stephen Spencer

Founder, NetConcepts and ScienceofSEO.com

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