AAWP product boxes, auto-generated descriptions, duplicate content?

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Hey everyone,

I'm sure some (if not all) of you are familiar with the WordPress plugin AAWP. It's a tool for creating comparison tables and product boxes for Amazon products.

Personally, I use(d) it to create product boxes, since they look nice and pull images from Amazon in a fashion I believe is consistent with their terms. For every box I set a custom title (Amazon titles are often ugly) and description -- if you don't do this, both fields would be pulled from Amazon.

About half a year ago I bought a plugin called Lasso, which allows you to create pretty product boxes for both Amazon and non-Amazon products, because I wanted to begin promoting more non-Amazon products. Unfortunately, this plugin broke all of my AAWP shortcodes, corrupting the descriptions and leading AAWP to pull product descriptions directly from Amazon for over 100 pages.

Some of this I fixed, but honestly, I was a lazy bastard, and left 80% of affiliate posts on my website with copy-paste Amazon descriptions for every product box. I'm not sure what I was thinking - I vaguely remember thinking that Google would like the extra, specification-heavy content...

A week ago, I got slapped by the Product Reviews update with a 70% sitewide loss in traffic (informational posts got hit too!). Of course, I realize there could be many other factors, but I suspect my website containing a bunch of duplicate, word-for-word Amazon descriptions didn't do me any favours.

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to lament or diagnose what my site's issue might be, but I'm curious to know what y'all think...

Is there a situation in which you could/would feasibly pull product descriptions from Amazon -- on any kind of scale -- and drop them onto your site, in the form of a product box or otherwise? Cause the more I think about this, the more I wonder why AAWP even does it. I mean, if I had to program a search algorithm that penalized thin sites that summarize product descriptions, I think the first thing I'd do is check for duplicate content like this?

Cheers
 

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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I personally don't think it matters, unless those descriptions made up some huge percentage of the content on your page, which would mean you probably deserved to get hit by that update. I doubt this is the case in your case, of course.

Google has gone on the record to say that when there's duplicate content snippets like this, they will try to determine which is the original page on your site, and assign that credit for the snippet to that page, meaning it would surface that page in the SERPs and no other.

We're talking about snippets from Amazon appearing on your pages though, not snippets from other pages on the same domain. In this case, you doubly don't have anything to worry about. There are sites in the SERPs that are 100% syndicated content and rank and earn traffic.

Recently, @illmasterj shared a site that's entirely snippets of text from various webpages combined into one (rather than fully syndicated articles). You can see how that's going for them. Whether this particular trick holds up, who knows. It's not a tactic I'd recommend for longevity.

But think about your situation compared to news articles that all use the same quotes from some street interview or phone interview. If a world leader says something interesting and everyone quotes it, they're not all going to tank.

This product reviews update is new and still rolling out. Once it's done rolling out, there will be a period of data collection and then, typically, they roll back some of the impact by tweaking metrics. I wouldn't panic or try to find a single smoking gun problem on your pages. These side filter algorithms measure TONS of stuff, not just whether or not AAWP used Amazon text or not, you know. I'd read the bullet points in this post concerning the Product Reviews update and ask myself honestly if I deserved a little smacking. I'm finally seeing a smaller impact since yesterday. Even sites that should have skated through this update are going to get hit. Google's algo's aren't remotely perfect.
 
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Thanks for the reply @Ryuzaki. Some of the descriptions automatically pulled from Amazon were quite lengthy, so I imagine they could have accounted for up to 30-40% of the page's total word count in some cases...

It's interesting what you say. I wonder, however, whether duplicate content will not be treated differently in light of the Product Reviews update - specifically to weed out thin content based on vendor product descriptions.

As for your last set of points, what's your usual timeline for a Google update? Wait a couple of weeks to see where the dust lands? (I've been tearing my site apart from day two - I'm pretty new to SEO and just went full-time)

I looked at the guidelines Google put out but I really feel like there's something more at play here - my whole site feels like it's been penalized for some reason, since it's not just review content that has been affected.
 

Ryuzaki

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As for your last set of points, what's your usual timeline for a Google update? Wait a couple of weeks to see where the dust lands?
Sometimes it's a couple weeks before they start rolling back some changes. Sometimes it's a month, or months. In these cases it doesn't require a re-crunching of the data, I don't think.

But assuming they don't roll back whatever effected you enough to matter. The changes you're making have to be crawled, the data crunched, then the data updated. This usually happens every 4 to 6 months with stuff like Panda. I'm assuming it's the same scenario here, and they said they will not be notifying up when they do a "refresh" as it's called. That's why it's critical to get the changes done ASAP so they can crawl it before the next data crunch, or you'll miss your window and potentially end up waiting a year.
 
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That's why it's critical to get the changes done ASAP so they can crawl it before the next data crunch, or you'll miss your window and potentially end up waiting a year.
Thanks for the insight and advice! On the one hand I feel like I should've waited a bit more before making radical changes, but on the other hand I want to be ready for the next refresh. (Especially with the upcoming May update - although not sure if they will align)