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We often have clients who have products with key technical features that support the customer's purchase decision. Ideally these are present on the product detail with a short blurb.

For example, if you were selling a hiking boot, you might have a blurb like the following:

  • Gore-Tex lining: Breathable fabric that keeps you dry

  • Vibram Soles: Sticky rubber, yet firm tread for long hikes

We have experimented with having this content in-page vs. loaded via a secondary ajax request. There are noticeable improvements in having them load after the fact in terms of perceived duplicate content (as many products might share these technologies). We have unique product descriptions and overviews, but it seems strange to have to dance around having very relevant, intentionally duplicate content that improves the overall user experience.

My hope is that there is a way to "canonicalize" a fragment of information, to announce that it is duplicate, and possibly specify a page that talks more about it.

EDIT After discussing with unor, my approach most likely will come down to balancing concise content per product feature, with additional microdata with additionalProperty, highlighting the product features and linking to more in-depth content when appropriate.

  • If the fragments are very small, you could make reference to the original by using the blockquote and q HTML tags then state where the original information is located. See here: w3schools.com/tags/tag_q.asp – Mike -- No longer here Jun 28 '16 at 0:22
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The term duplicate content typically refers to multiple pages that have the same (or mostly the same) content, not to multiple pages that have a few chunks of the same content but different main content.

(In the case of Google Search, they call it "substantive blocks of content" which have to be the same or similar.)

In your case, it seems that you don’t have duplicate content in that sense. Each of your products has a unique description (this would be the main content) which just happens to share a few parts with other products.

I think you do want to get this "duplicated" content indexed for your products, otherwise your products wouldn’t be a good match for search queries like "hiking boot Gore-Text" or "hiking boot sticky rubber", so loading it via Ajax might not be a good idea (not all search engines support JavaScript).

That said, if a repeated feature description becomes lengthy, you might want to consider shortening it and link to a separate page which gives the full information about that feature. This would be similar to Google’s advice (from the page linked above):

Minimize boilerplate repetition: For instance, instead of including lengthy copyright text on the bottom of every page, include a very brief summary and then link to a page with more details.

What "lengthy" might mean depends on how much other content your page has. If the unique description only consists of two sentences, but you have five blocks of (repeated) feature descriptions, each a few sentences long, it might become problematic. If the feature descriptions are similar to your example, you should be fine.

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  • This seems like a good balance, but I admit I was hoping for a more semantic solution. It makes good sense to keep feature bullets crisp and to the point (Feature X: makes Y better), with a link (or ajax expand) to fill in details. My only hope was to be able to openly declare these items as being knowingly duplicate, yet still applicable. – Nikolaj Baer Jun 28 '16 at 16:15
  • @NikolajBaer: I don’t think there is a way how this could be conveyed semantically. A semantic annotation (e.g., with Schema.org) could convey that these descriptions are about the same thing (→ the same feature), but consumers that are interested in learning about duplicate text fragments of course already know that it’s duplicated (and if they didn’t know it, they are probably not interested in finding duplicate fragments to begin with, I guess). – unor Jun 28 '16 at 16:25
  • it doesn't exist from my research, but I was imagining something like the example for restaurant for mainEntityOfPage, but maybe a new ItemType like "Product-Technology". What I like about this would be the clarity of how the product technology is associated, with more in depth information. And of course maybe a search engine would see this as a positive, rather than a murky game of whether the AI thinks it is spammy ;) – Nikolaj Baer Jun 28 '16 at 16:36
  • @NikolajBaer: Yes, conveying this is of course possible (but this is different from conveying: here is a duplicated text fragment). -- For Product. you would use additionalProperty and give it a PropertyValue (which represents a feature) as value. Most use a unique name to differentiate the different features, but if you want to make it explicit, you could give each feature its own URI (in Microdata: with itemid); this URI does not necessarily have to point to a page. – unor Jun 28 '16 at 16:43
  • Thank you, I think the additionalProperty schema seems like a great route! In the end, my broad goal (maybe not clearly stated), was to limit the amount of guessing about what is the right balance of content duplication for UX, and instead focus on a clear semantic description of the duplicated content, with references to more detail. This schema seems to fit the bill, and I apologize for not finding it earlier. Thanks again for the help! – Nikolaj Baer Jun 28 '16 at 23:32

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