I see a lot of sites with the same product descriptions for products that are basically the same other than design or color difference, which makes sense from the standpoint of scale - say you have hundreds of t-shirts of the same material, it's a lot faster just to list the same description about material/fit/selling points, and change the product title to reflect the design.
It would be nice to add a custom description for each t-shirt product/design, but is that worth spending hours or hiring to make each one unique?
I read that Google doesn't penalize this type of duplication, because it's not malicious and also pretty common... but I also would think it's best to try and make unique whenever possible to capture more keywords and try for better long tail ranking.
What do you think?
Any ideas on a scalable way to make similar products unique?... does it matter that much?... have you done any case studies or live examples to see how this affects ranking and traffic?
Unique descriptions are a good thing. But yes, it can be very time consuming and labor intensive especially if you have thousands of products. You can use excel and using the replace function do this at scale...to a degree.
However, the best way to approach this is to identify your top products and start there. Your return on investment with time spent, would be best utilized on those products. Then you can work your way down the list as time allows.
To summarize, it comes down to prioritizing your products that should be updated.
As the other contributor mentioned, its important to prioritize the products that your customers are engaging with and actually purchasing...to ensure that you're starting where you get the best ROI and then work down from there.
A natural way of addressing this issue that you can set an ongoing process in place with is ensuring that you support Q&A on your product pages. This gives you the ability to build original/unique answers to product information questions which is in turn unique content....and Google gobbles that stuff up.
See how if done well, it gets into results that are even featured snippets on Google results:
That content has been seen to perform up to 2x better than normal Google Search traffic, meaning.....the average lifetime value of customers coming from product Q&A is 2x higher than normal Google Search traffic when being reported in Google Analytics.
Other than the content creation itself which is valuable.....the app you use should give you reporting on the engagement level of those Q&A threads.....so you can use that to focus your efforts on what information your customers are actually looking for and what may be useful to enhance your description with.
There are a few benefits this process brings to the table:
Certainly something to address for your SEO purposes, and Google eats up original/quality content....so setup a consistent process that effectively tackles this issue and on the products that your customers are actually engaging with.