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I have a website that sells a product. In addition, I have a network of partners/resellers who also sell my product through their websites on a comission basis. I support them using my copy in their body text as a description of my products because I know the best what I am writing about and it is also less work/hassle for them.
I am now concerned that this might not be search engine-friendly and the websites of my partners and I might suffer as a result. Should I be concerned about this?
Would you care to explain why Amazon Aff or Yahoo RSS feeds being displayed across 'thousands' of sites are not hurting them? Let me guess, they are in the charades!
Simple solution like you also mentioned - Keep two completely different and unique copies, one for you and other for your partners. Of course, both the copies would eventually be selling the same product, so take care to neatly rephrase the entire body. Good luck.
Then you'll end up with a bunch of partner sites with duplicate content issues. Consider the consequences based on your particular situation of course.
This would be nearly impossible with some of my marketing copy on day-by-day tour itineraries that have to be the same no matter what. The only thing I could do would be to move words around.
I do not want to penalize my partners in Google yet I simply cannot write different copies for one tour.
I think in the Travel Industry it is common practise for the travel agency to copy the marketing copy of the touroperator on their sites. I might tell my partners the possible consequences of this.
Most should know that already but perhaps the call to action will motivate them a bit.
Perhaps even have a content contest, offer some prize of commission bonus or something for whomever produces the most unique content related to your offerings.
Re-write your copy! Pronto. Ignore those who say Google doesn't penalize for duplicate content. They can and do penalize. We were in the very same boat you're in - we manufacture products, and support our distributors with pre-built web pages, including copy. A few months back, we vanished from Google. We panicked, until we finally figured out what had happened. We re-wrote our copy, used Copyscape to find the dupes, and now we're back in.