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I have an ecommerce site with paginated product categories.

I would like to add a description for each category to improve the "thin content" problem ecommerce pages generally have.

I would like this paragraph description to show on each page of its respective category, but how do I avoid the duplicate content issue.

First thing that comes to mind is rel="canonical" to point back to the first page, but according to Yoast, that's not such a good idea:

A common misconception is that the canonical on a paginated page should always point to page 1 in the series. This is not the case. When you do that, you run the risk of search engines not indexing links that appear on page 2, 3 etc. of your archives. This would cause older articles to drop out of the search results entirely.

To me, this makes perfect sense. The products are different on each page.

What suggestions do you have for the best way to handle this?

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Pagination is not duplicate content...

Google will and does index pagination pages regardless of the uniqueness of the page. Also, it is massively common for webmasters to not understand exactly what duplicate content is.

Understanding what duplicate content is...

Duplicate content is where the exact page appears elsewhere external or internally, product pagination pages, blog pagination and so forth are not duplicate because the snippets in combination with other snippets makes the page unique... page 2/3 is duplicate of page 2/3, but it is not duplicate of 1/3, or the actual product or article URL.

Canonical is not needed on such pages

Using canonical links tells Google where the main source URL can be found, it makes little to no difference if you use, or don't use canonical links on your pagination pages, in fact the entire Stack Exchange network with millions of tag paginations does not use canonical at all (on this pages), and they have no indexing problems at all.

Page Content Descriptions

Having some type of page description is preferable if it adds to the user experience, but it's not required to rank those type of pages.

Stack Exchange on tag pages users a description provided by the tag description, this is often repeated again, and again over 10's of pages, again... no indexing problems, some pages may not even have a description because one has not been provided by the community.

If you do believe that it adds user value to the page then by all means add a description, and if you wanted to extend further onto that and have unique headers with page numbers, and slightly different descriptions for each categories then by using WordPress codex you can do so.

On my WordPress site and on my category pages for example, I change the a few words depending what category is being displayed You are viewing: <?php single_cat_title(); ?>. I even add different titles, and meta descriptions, and use suffix (page 1 of n). I even went to the extent of adding different welcome messages to each category depending what time of day it was, totally overkill... but nice touch at the time I thought, but all this isn't required.

Here's a look at the code I use if you wanted to adapt, or get ideas from:

<?php
/* This sets the $time variable to the current hour in the 24 hour clock format */
$time = date("H");
/* Set the $timezone variable to become the current timezone */
$timezone = date("e");
/* If the time is less than 1200 hours, show good morning */
if ($time < "12") {
    echo "Good morning,";
} else
/* If the time is grater than or equal to 1200 hours, but less than 1700 hours, so good afternoon */
if ($time >= "12" && $time < "17") {
    echo "Good afternoon,";
} else
/* Should the time be between or equal to 1700 and 1900 hours, show good evening */
if ($time >= "17" && $time < "19") {
    echo "Good evening,";
} else
/* Finally, show good night if the time is greater than or equal to 1900 hours */
if ($time >= "19") {
    echo "Hey Night Owl,";
}
?> You're viewing all our articles within the following categories <?php single_cat_title(); ?>. The BYBE blog has many more categories that you will help you find useful and relevant articles, here is our major categories: <?php $categories = get_tags( array('orderby' => 'name', 'parent'  => 0) ); foreach ( $categories as $category ) { printf( '<a title="View all articles tagged with %2$s" href="%1$s">%2$s</a> ', esc_url( get_category_link( $category->term_id ) ), esc_html( $category->name ));} ?>. If you have any questions, concerns or complaints regarding any of our online articles, then please don't hesitate to <a href="/contact-us" title="Contact the BYBE team in Bournemouth">get in touch</a>. Alternatively you can reach us on <a href="https://twitter.com/bybe_net" title="Reach us on Twitter">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/+ByBeBournemouth" title="Talk to BYBE on Google Plus">Google Plus</a>, or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ByBeUK" title="Reach our team on Facebook">Facebook</a>.</p>

Titles and Meta Descriptions

Google does prefer to see unique meta descriptions and titles, thankfully this is an easy task when using YoastSEO thanks to the supported variable's, if you take a look at my site you can see that each propagation page displays a different page number after 1, suppressing those nagging warnings in Webmaster Tools (Console).

  • Don't think ur example of stack exchange tag pages is a valid one. 1st, I'm pretty sure I've NEVER seen one of the tag pages show up in Google's results. 2nd, I don't think SE cares to rank those in search results. They can be useful to someone already on the site, but probably useless as an entry point to the site. What should and do show up, are the Q&As. 3rd, the tag descriptions are a tiny portion of the page's content as a whole. It's mostly text. Mine is mostly pics. If I add a description, it may account for 90% of the page's textual content. That surely would classify as "dup. content" – Joshua Goossen May 2 '16 at 13:11
  • Again, your mistaken what duplicate content is... a page that contains snippets of content found else where internally or externally is not duplicate... duplicate is an EXACT match, or very close to an identical page... otherwise the likes of millions of websites would be falsely punished. – Simon Hayter May 2 '16 at 13:14
  • And in fact your entirely wrong about tag pages not ranking... Google Pro Webmaster SEO and your see the second page ranked, is indeed a TAG page, sorry but non-sense that tag pages, and other similar pages don't rank. – Simon Hayter May 2 '16 at 13:15
  • So out of the 5,846 questions related to SEO on Pro Webmasters, Google returned SEO tag page because these are considered duplicate? obviously not. In regards of mostly images, exactly the same, Googling RADIOS I get Argos radios, plenty of repeated content found in different categories across the site, all text and pictures found on a child page, and again... not duplicate, not punishable, but valuable...... – Simon Hayter May 2 '16 at 13:25
  • Point taken, but what would you're answer be to point #3 in the my comment above. I Googled radios myself and came up with multiple paginated product pages with mostly images, but none of them had a category description, so obviously their content was unique from page to page as the products on each page are unique. – Joshua Goossen May 3 '16 at 12:56
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I have an ecommerce site with paginated product categories.

I would like to add a description for each category to improve the "thin content" problem ecommerce pages generally have.

That can go on the first page of each product category so that people are introduced to the category.

I would like this paragraph description to show on each page of its respective category, but how do I avoid the duplicate content issue.

Change it up. At the very least, make the paragraph mention what page the user is on and what the last page is in the category as well as how many items are to be shown. Also, include next to the products themselves a brief description of the product, but avoid using the exact same description for every product. Then when someone selects a product, then on the product page, offer a story about the product.

First thing that comes to mind is rel="canonical" to point back to the first page, but according to Yoast, that's not such a good idea...

If you follow my suggestions to make each page of the category completely different, then I'd agree that canonical is a bad idea and also you can have more pages indexed since then google will treat your pages as separate well thought-out articles.

Until that time comes, I'd suggest applying rel-canonical to all the pages (except the first) and point them to the first so that google understands that what you have is a set of pages for a product category so that at least something is indexed instead of nothing.

  • Apart from pagination pages, blog rolls and other mashups are not treated as duplicate content, the combination of the content makes the page unqiue, and will, and does get indexed, plus ranked by Google. – Simon Hayter Apr 30 '16 at 17:33
  • It just really comes down to uniqueness. Having the same large paragraph with the exact same text with no other words on it across a series of pages should qualify as duplicate content. – Mike Apr 30 '16 at 18:01
  • Page 1 will differ in page content that Page 2, therefore it is not duplicate. If it was a problem then the likes of eBay, Stack Exchange and even small sites wouldn't rank. This is not duplicate content. – Simon Hayter Apr 30 '16 at 18:42
  • Just checked and I currently have 46 pages under a single parent category. That quickly becomes very impractical if it's any more that the "very least" you mention. That can be done with code. Now the question is how much value added is that users, or is it just unnecessary rhetoric. For me, the 'rel= canonical` to the first page is just the wrong approach. As it currently is, without the category description, each page is unique content as each page has it's own products. – Joshua Goossen Apr 30 '16 at 18:54
  • Josh, I agree if the products come with a description in text. A page with just images of products and very little to no text isn't enough for uniqueness because google doesn't consider images as page content for the purposes of indexing. – Mike May 1 '16 at 4:04
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It is better to disallow indexing of duplicate pages via robots.txt file...

I have put:

Disallow: /page/
Disallow: /category/
Disallow: /author/

in my Robots.txt file to prevent duplicate content issue on my Wordpress website.

  • Actually it's better to use canonical URLs – John Conde May 13 '18 at 16:51

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