Why customers hate duplicate content

29Dec09

In a typical post-holiday scenario, I needed to exchange a few pieces of clothing that I received as gifts, since they were the wrong size. So I went to the retailer’s website and tried to locate the items I had. Even searching by the style number from the packaging, I found several entries for every product. Some were in the Top Gifts category, others in the Men’s category, and others in the Women’s category. How could the same item be in all these sections? Apparently, the store sells a lot of unisex items, so they classify stuff in lots of categories at once.

When the same product appears under more than one URL, it’s referred to as “Duplicate Content”. Most of what you read on the topic is related to search engines, in that Google and others don’t like finding the same content in more than one place — and often drop the extra copies in favor of the most important one. This is a complex issue, but my point here is that search engines aren’t the only ones who dislike duplicate content. Customers hate it even more.

Why would customers be annoyed by finding the same item in more than one place? Simple: it’s confusing. When I saw the gift I received in both the men’s and women’s sections, I thought I had the wrong item — until I finally realized the unisex stuff is listed all over the place.

So what’s a retailer to do? Just create a master product page for each item. You can still link to it from each category, but all the entries should point to the same place. Then, put a little category or tag list on that page to say who the product is for, or what attributes it includes. That way, nobody gets perplexed by products that seem to be multiplying all over the website. At the same time, you’ll still be providing the categories and navigation that help customers find the right item in the first place.



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