Multiple sites share same product catalog - bad for seo?

Hi All

I work for a company that resells a commerce platform to 3rd parties and integrates it with their site, the majority of the time on a sub domain, which shares the same core product catalogue which does vary in some cases.

  • How do you go about optimising seo across multiple domains when it’s effectively the same content?
  • Are we likely to get penalised/rank lower on the sites?
  • How do you go about making sure that your platform customers have the same seo opportunities as any other content provider?

I have never been in a situation like this so thought I would field the questions that I don’t have the answers to.

Let me know your thoughts and thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Do you mean that the use the same catalog database? or exactly the same layout and shopping cart process? While the text coming from the database and the pictures may be the same and hence the main content is duplicated (which is not good), the emphasis on the design, layout and the smoothness of the shopping process (including checkout) can make the difference. This different behaviour means that the shop that does it better, will get more traffic (and hence will optimize better).

The title and alt attributes for each site can be different although this can be a challenge in itself. After all, a printer is a printer.

Another way to create different content is allowing people to review the product they sell.

Some of these shops may want to create videos for their featured product, that could also do a lot of difference in their SEO. Or just videos with interesting tips in general about things related with their area of expertise.

So you may not control the main text but if you can control the code, the design, create new ways to do the shopping experience more pleasurable, or add new content (via adding comments from the staff about the quality of the product, reviews) and add extras (such as blog, video, podcasts, etc) you can still make a difference.

Hi Molona

Thanks for your response. Where I believe we run into problems is the fact that the platform is 100% identical across all (what we call) partner sites, the shopping experience is identical however as a platform we have the ability to roll out some of the features that you have mentioned which may allow for a certain amount of uniqueness from partner site users.

Historically I’ve always focussed on individual sites with a grass roots approach to SEO, build the site properly, solid content, make sure it’s both human and machine readable and then the search engines will do the rest. This is an entirely new challenge for me so am keen to find out if others have encountered similar scenarios and to encourage discussion on it.

Thanks for your input.

The problem is that if you have a dozen sites that have exactly the same content but with a different skin, how should they rank? If someone searches for “red widgets” and you have a dozen affiliates selling the same red widgets with the same text, how should Google know which one to prioritise?

I don’t see why you would be actively penalised, but you will find that all of your affiliates are fighting each other to get to the #1 spot, which may allow other competitors to sneak past unchallenged.

Each of the sites needs to find some way to distinguish themselves from each other, so that they aren’t just clones. But ultimately, you’ve got a loads of sites all trying to get the same traffic, and each customer is only going to buy from one of them and not the others.

You may find you run into problems there with site visitors, as well as search engines.

If I’m looking to buy something on the web and don’t think I can get it from any of the businesses I already use, I do a search and then check out a number of the results. If I come across two or more stores where everything is identical apart from the name, I immediately abandon them all, regardless of any good points. To me, there feels to be something “deceptive” about that kind of set-up; I don’t know who’s “really” behind the business and therefore I don’t trust any of them.

Perhaps I’m not a typical customer, but it’s something to bear in mind.

Hi All

Thanks for the insight, I believe some of our partners may be more of a walled garden than what I give credit for (to fill you in on what you may consider typical visitor), I see our service almost as bolt on content to run along side other services and in some cases integrated with SSO so perhaps SEO doesn’t carry as much weight. I do still see value in manipulating the platform to enable content customisation for SEO purposes though. As always, content is king however I did consider this a unique problem that I never saw many answers for online and so I asked.

Just out of interest, how do services like avoid SEO penalties when in fact all they are doing is aggregating content from various master sources? Surely that’s duplicated content although in a slightly different way…