Small Business Ecommerce: The Perils of Canned Content

By Helen Bradley | Posted April 26, 2012

How do you differentiate your small business ecommerce store when you sell products that are sold on many other Web stores? Using product descriptions provided by manufacturers or copied from other sites might seem like a quick way to list your products, but that strategy can spell disaster for your shop.

Google penalizes duplicate content and, worse than that, trying to get your site to rank high in search engine results when everyone uses the same content is nearly impossible. In this column, I'll explain how canned content actually hurts your website, and how you can -- with a little effort -- improve the descriptions to make your site rank better for the products that you sell.

What is Canned Content?

Canned content is any copy written by someone else, usually the product manufacturer, and offered to you as a description of the product for your website. On one hand, it makes good sense to use canned content. After all it's prepped, ready to go and written by the manufacturer, so who knows the product better? And, you save time when someone else writes the product descriptions for you; it's one less task for you to do.

Why You Should 'Can' Canned Descriptions

If you're in a "cookie-cutter" business where you sell the same kind of products found on lots of other sites, then using canned product content won't help your business. When someone types a product description into a search engine, it's unlikely that your site will appear on the first page if lots of other sites use the same product descriptions as you do.

product descriptions for small business ecommerce

Lately Google has been actively filtering out duplicate content. This means that when someone searches for products, instead of getting a list of sites all with the same content, Google reduces the amount of duplicate content and delivers a wider variety of results to the searcher. After all, from a purchaser's point of view, it doesn't matter too much where they buy the item; they don't need to see fifty sites with the same description in the search results. One or two is all they really want or need.

Populating your site with product descriptions that are the same as everyone else's means your site won't achieve the search engine rankings that it could otherwise get if you used more varied content.

Product Descriptions in an Ideal World

In an ideal world, you'd be able to create original product descriptions for all your products. This would allow you to distinguish your small business website from all the other sites selling the same products and snag your site a great ranking in search engine results when people search for products like yours.

Of course, if you have a lot of products then creating original product descriptions will be an impossible task. So any solution that you implement needs to be a real world solution that has regard for the skills you have and your time constraints.



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