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We have a customer who is the local distributor or reseller for a German-based supplier.

The products are high quality and beautiful images, videos and elegant English-language text are made available on the German supplier's website. The product isn't for sale on the supplier's website, though, and that's where my customer comes in.

Now, my customer isn't a franchisee or in any way an affiliate of the supplier, he's definitely a distinct entity with his own website. But there's a strong relationship between them and the supplier says to him "you can use all the text and images you want from our own site". From my customer's point of view it's an instant win - all we have to do is pull this great marketing content into his own website.

But to me the whole thing is screaming duplicate content penalties.

So I'm about to tell him he's got to write all his own quality copy and make his own quality images (which isn't going to happen, he's just too small) or else disappear from Google ...

But this must be a common problem. It's a common enough business model for a strong well funded and well marketed manufacturer to farm out the actual selling to small resellers and franchisees. How, in such cases, do the small resellers and franchisees successfully use the original manufacturer's marketing material without duplicating the source and each other in Google's eyes?

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Usually they simply don't! I have worked on hundreds of sites with the exact same issue, each time giving them some options to remedy it, but quite often they never make the necessary changes.

But lets get to the options.

  1. Rewrite the content. This is clearly the single best thing that can be done, but it can be a daunting task. Say if you have an eCommerce site with 1000+ products, that's a lot of content to re-write which is either going to take a lot of time, or be expensive, or both. But this is where you really need to hammer home the problem about duplicate content so the site owner understands. Why is Google going to put the site at the top of search result if it's got the same content as 50+ other websites? One option I used to give is get an intern in, and they can spend their time re-writing product descriptions. You might not get the best copy produced, but its still a fix and maybe spend some money getting professional copy produced for the big selling items.

  2. Create unique content around the duplicated content. You can avoid duplicate content somewhat if you dilute it with original content on the page. Think user reviews, comparison charts, your own additional specs not included in the supplied content. Of course still creating addtional content, but can work well.

  3. Using Iframes to 'hide' duplicate content. You can serve duplicate content using an Iframe on the page, then block that page that the Iframe is pulling the content from. Can be useful if you really want to display some duplicate content, but works best with other original content around it, other wise your product page will be rather bare with no content and could be seen as thin content page and cause Google Panda issues.

  4. Block the Page. You could simply block the pages with duplicate content on from being indexed by search engines. Obviously you wont be getting traffic to them, but say you only had 20 pages out of 100 with duplicate content on, you could block those and try and get people on the page simply through browsing the site, or adwords, etc. Not ideal, but can be a short term fix, while looking at other options.

  5. Make the text into an image. I wasn't going to add this, but thought I would. This is something we may have done quite a few years ago, but not any more. Similar to an Iframe, you could make the duplicate text into an image file. However this causes issues with pixelation, issues when people are browsing from different sized devices and old browsers and issues with responsive sites. I wouldn't recommend it, but thought I add it on the list

You needn't have to worry about getting new shots taken of the products, Google doesn't penalise for duplicate images (least not yet any way), so you can safely use those. but to rank well, you really need to sort out the duplicate content.

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    I also want to point out that AJAX can be used the same way as the Iframe where you load the data using AJAX from a URL blocked by robots.txt. This is the best answer I've seen on this site this week. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 23 '14 at 15:52

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