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Avoid duplicate content penalty - 2 brands, 2 websites, same products/info

 3:24 pm on Jun 4, 2013 (gmt 0)


I manage the website for a commercial building products company that distributes almost all of our products under two different brands. One of them sells direct to contractors, and the other sells to distributors. It is very important to our distributors that these two brands are not associated in the marketplace, lest they feel that we are undercutting them.

Because of this, we have two different websites with very similar content (product documentation, spec sheets, etc). As a small company, we don't have the resources to create unique content for each site.

On Google, we rank well for our target keywords, but usually only one of the two websites will show up. Any advice on how to avoid a duplicate content penalty? Should we use rel="canonical" to indicate our preferred brand for that particular product?




 8:49 am on Jun 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld

You're not alone in this. Duplicate content on the same site is a bigger problem.

Are you sure the distributors don't already know about the other brand? Since the Internet, this has been a bigger problem to get over. In the past, you'd print brochures, which look different.

At the very least, your sites should look completely different: The UI has to be significantly different.

The real way round it is, as you indicated, creating different content.

Crazy idea: Even so, if it's only the distributors that use it, why not consider the site for distributors is not indexed at all in the search engines. Add your own internal search to that site. Keep the site that sells direct as the only one that is indexed.


 9:21 am on Jun 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Are you sure the distributors don't already know about the other brand?

The way I read the post: The distributors know exactly what's going on. They just don't want the consumer to know, for fear they'll sneak off and do their shopping at contractors' outlets instead of in retail stores. So neither brand can even hint at the existence of the other brand.

Wouldn't rel="canonical" be kinda disastrously counter-productive because it just highlights the fact that the two products are really the same?


 12:34 pm on Jun 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yea, we run into this a lot with businesses and their distributors and/or affiliates. I've never come up with a good solution for it. Some business models are just never going to work perfectly in Google (or at least, it would take more than it's worth to try to get there and maintain it)


 12:43 pm on Jun 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your input! A few things:

  • Actually, the duplicate content is on two different websites/domains. By necessity of the marketplace, the two brands appear to be unaffiliated online (except for the near-identical product offerings). Does the layout of the page really help prevent duplicate content penalties?
  • Good idea with creating a distributor-only site, except customers who buy that product through distributors need a resource to download product documentation. (It's like when you go to a hardware manufacturer to get drivers for your computer. You may not be able to buy the product directly from them, but they have the documentation online for you.)
  • lucy24 has it right: distributors are afraid customers will see the products on their shelves, look them up online, and realize they can cut out the middleman and get it for less from us (which they could, of course). For example, Wal-Mart wouldn't like it if Samsung sold their TVs for less on samsung.com. But Samsung could use a different brand/model number and sell it on their site, and Wal-Mart wouldn't care.

    netmeg -- I'm glad we're not alone in this! Thanks for chiming in!

  • engine

     1:32 pm on Jun 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Another idea: If you're short on resources, why don't you have user content on one of the sites, or even, both? Users would generate their own product reviews on each site and each product, making it unique.

    Robert Charlton

     7:15 am on Jun 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Does the layout of the page really help prevent duplicate content penalties?

    Duplicate content isn't really penalized... Traditionally, at least, it's been filtered, and the site with the highest PageRank usually wins. The layout and design should not affect dupe content issues... html text content is what Google looks at.

    That said, if you decide to go with the two sites that are both intended to rank, do make the sites look as different as possible. You're doing this for the consumer, not for Google. If both sites rank and a searcher sees both, you don't want the sites to appear related.

    If you manage to get a large enough percentage of unique content on your pages, and get good inbound links from sites independent of each other, there is a chance that both sites will rank. Separate hosting also can help. Google doesn't want to rank sites selling exactly the same product lines, unless the sites serve clearly different purposes.

    A variant on the not-indexed distributor site might be a distributor site that is indexed, but is optimized basically as a support site. It might rank well for product documentation, which would be a refreshing change if you've ever tried finding such materials among current offerings... and you could have log-ins for distributors to check prices, etc. This assumes that the distributors know where the site is.

    There are variants of this problem, btw, each with a different twist... manufacturers who don't want to compete with their distributors (neither sells direct to consumer), manufacturers who do compete with their affiliates (and both sell direct), companies that have franchises in geographically limited territories, etc.


     12:30 pm on Jun 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

    Great insight, thanks engine and Robert! I never considered some of the other verticals in which this may be a problem.

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