Distributors. Resellers. Affiliates. All are names for business entities who purchase goods and products directly from a supplier to resell, or redistribute to consumers.
Distributors offer the manpower and cash flow needed to promote and sell products directly to consumers, and take the burden of mass distribution off the manufacturer, but many times this type of business partnership can create complications for product pages and SEO.
The Challenges of Optimizing a Distributor’s or Reseller Websites for Search
When it comes to online marketing it’s often unclear which marketing and product information should be housed on the manufacturer’s site and which content should be syndicated out to distributors. Due to limitations on time and money it’s often the same content that get recycled across all sites.
Replicating the same content and product information across many different online properties can create complications in organic search. Manufacturers and distributors are targeting different consumer audiences Offline, but Online we see these sites fighting each other for rankings in the search engines.
When this is the case it’s often the manufacturers who win out. Many times the manufacturer’s site is larger and older with more inbound links and content than the distributor’s site, and to the search engines these sites appear more authoritative. To perform well in the search engines distributors must use effective SEO to also establish themselves as a source of original, resourceful content in the industry.
SEO Tips for Distributors Resellers
Target long-tail keywords specific to your distribution center
In most cases it is hard for a distributor’s site to compete against the large manufacturers and brands for generic head terms. Instead identify long-tail keywords, which are highly relevant to your branch’s consumers that your site can rank well for. If you’re running a PPC campaign, look at your highest converting keywords to get some indication as to which specific long-tail keywords are valuable to your site.
Create unique title tags and Meta Descriptions
As a distributor, your site will likely have some of the same product pages as the manufacturer’s site, and although it seems like a quick solution it is important that you do not duplicate their relevant title tags and Meta descriptions.
Google will not show duplicate content in the SERPs and when Google finds identical title tags, Meta descriptions and on-page content they will choose one site over the other to display in the rankings. By duplicating this content you a creating a direct competitor for relevant search rankings and often times are competing with a larger, more authoritative site.
Create unique title tags and Meta descriptions that display keywords and marketing messages most relevant to your segment of consumers.
Interlink with the manufacturer’s site (let Google know there’s a connection)
Google will be able to detect the similarity in content between your distribution site and the manufacturer’s site. If you try and hide this relationship Google might assume there’s manipulation at hand. Let Google know there’s a connection between the two sites. Mention and link to the manufacturer when describing where you get your product, or mention them as the original source of some of your duplicated content. Let Google know there’s a partnership between the two sites, and you’re not simply scraping content from the manufacturer.
Create robust product pages
Many times product descriptions, pictures and specifications come directly from the manufacturer’s website. To compete alongside these sites and rank for individual products you will need to add plenty of unique, resourceful content around each product. Having detailed product pages with highly resourceful content will boost your site’s online authority and satisfy users, creating strong user-based metrics (CTR, time on site, bounce rate, etc.) all of which helps to increase your site’s rankings.
Create a blog
Establish a niche for your business. Attract a segmented audience by providing content to address the needs and questions specific to consumers of your product. Google values sites that continually publish fresh content, and continually updating your blog with strong content will help satisfy this criteria. Building a blog and promoting your posts through social media is great way to engage with the consumer and begin building a relationship with them across different online spaces.
Create organized, descriptive URLs for each product
A clean, static URL structure allows Google to more easily index your content and understand your site’s structure, it can also lead to higher CTR’s from the SERPs. Keep all characters in lowercase, use hyphens to separate words and use descriptive keywords to appropriately name subfolders, avoid dynamic parameters and the inclusion of tracking IDs in the URL.
Use geo-targeting when appropriate
Many distributors market to a localized consumer base and you can use this to your advantage. Optimize your site for local search and compete in a market that many nation-wide or global manufacturers can’t. Make sure your local address is visible and crawlable on the site, add your distribution center to Google maps, target local keywords and connect with other local resources via inbound and outbound links.
Maintain your products pages
A large volume of product pages can complicate site structure and make it harder for users to find the information they are looking for. Keep your product pages as organized as possible. If you no longer carry product don’t just 404 the page, instead display a brief message explaining the product is no longer available and point users to a closely related product that is still available. Don’t have any other similar products? Point users back up a level to a relevant category page.
Also make use of the rel=canonical tag if you have a large volume of almost identical product pages. Let’s say you have several versions of your product listings, one sorted alphabetically, one sorted by popularity and one sorted by price. The content of these pages are identical, only organized in different ways, and to Google are duplicates. Use the rel=canonical tag to avoid issues with duplicate content and indicate to Google the preferred version of the URL to show in the SERPs and apply link metrics to.
Offer product reviews
What if you have a distribution model
Many websites and businesses operate on a distribution business model in which their sales come from other websites listing their products. These businesses sell their white label products into other businesses, and then the business utilize their own websites to sell the products through to the consumer. This business model has been around for many years, and in a world that operates offline this model can be very effective for increasing sales and growing a small business.
The issue arises when these companies try to compete in the organic search results with an SEO campaign. Below are a few of the primary ranking and brand concerns that arise when undertaking a traditional distribution model in an online world.
Issues with the distribution Model and SEO
- Duplicate content across multiple domains causing a loss in value for the primary domain.
- Content quality and accuracy across domains suffers when resellers are uninformed about SEO and thus try shady tactics such as keyword stuffing.
- The primary manufactures website is filtered from the search results in favor of less valuable product pages from the resellers.
- The splintering of brand across multiple low quality websites who have very little to lose if they partake in shady marketing tactics.
- Links are spread out across multiple websites instead of being focused on the primary brand website.
- Conversion rate and traffic for the primary manufacture website suffers.
Higher cost for maintaining your business with lower profit margins.
We understand that there are positives to embarking on a reseller model, but most of these are anchored in a traditional business model mindset and fail to take into account the online rules for SEO. A couple benefits of a traditional reseller model could be.
- Increase reach for product set
- Increase sales through other companies marketing channels and storefronts.
- Capitalize on the traffic to other businesses stores and websites.
There is a delicate balance between the business case for syndicating your content to distributors, resellers, or affiliate websites and the SEO case against syndication. We understand that ecommerce websites are one of the primary types of sites that embark on this reseller model, thus are one of the primary sites who are hurt by content syndication. If an ecommerce website is going to be successful with this type of business model while trying to play in the SEO bucket, there are some rules that will need to be followed and agreed on by both the manufacturer and the reseller for all sites involved to benefit. Below are some tips or syndicating product descriptions, content, and other forms of media to increase marketing reach, without hurting your own website.
10 Tips For Syndication of Content While Protecting Your Own Rankings
- Don’t give it all away: Many companies have product release kits that are put together by their PR department or their marketing teams. Most of these product kits include videos, press releases, product copy, product research, etc.) Provide your resellers with as little of this content as possible (maybe give your best resellers more of this content and new resellers less). Your resellers should take it on themselves (which will force them to think outside the box) to be creative with the content sets that you provide to them, thus creating some additional unique content that is valuable to their visitors.
- Rewrite it: This is probably the most time extensive, but can have the highest value for everyone involved.
- I am not suggesting writing new copy for each of your resellers, but instead suggesting writing 1 piece of content that all your resellers can use. This will position your website as the most valuable for content and research about your products, and position your resellers as resellers.
- This tactic is not about spinning articles or sending your content off to a low quality content writing service.
- This is about positioning your resellers as resellers of your product and not “experts” or the manufacture of the product.
- Let your distributors fight for rankings: This goes with the above tactic about writing new content for your resellers to use. Make sure it is built into their reseller agreement that they can not utilize or repurpose any content that is on your primary website. They must use the content that you provide for them (either sent to them in the product feed, or giving them an area to download content from) and add to it with their own product ideas for adding value.
- Keep the data close to your chest: I have been in conversations with manufacturer websites we do SEO for, and they have said that their resellers are asking for insider information about keyword ideas or the highest converting keywords. I would suggest keeping this data close to your chest and not being to open with what data you share with your resellers.
- Get a link back: This is an older tactic but something that is a no-brainer when it comes to content syndication. Built into every reseller agreement there needs to be a section that mandates they add a followed link back to your product page from the corresponding product page on their website. This will help Google determine the original source for the content if it comes into question in their algorithmic process.
- Canonicalize across domains: Cross domain canonicalization is an aggressive/powerful tactic that was launched by Google a couple years back to help eliminate duplicate content across domains. This allows a primary website to add a canonical tag into the header of the content they send to resellers. This tag is a directive to Google that the primary content is located on the manufactures website; and to not index or use the content on the resellers website in the search results. This gives the manufacturer complete control over which site is indexed in the search results. Basically it will eliminate (in almost all cases) the product pages that you have provided to the reseller, from showing up in the search results. This effectively will eliminate the opportunity for a reseller to SEO the content (they still can use PPC), which might not be well liked by the reseller, but its an aggressive tactic to keep the primary manufacturer website safe in the search results.
- Build up your own pages: If you are going to ignore the above rules for syndicating content then the other option is to build up your own pages by creating an experience that your users will engage with, link to, and socialize. This tactic will help Google pick your website to be shown in the search results.
- Add additional value with reviews: As mentioned above you can build up your own page. One valuable way to do this is to add client reviews to your product pages.
- Utilize a service like BazaarVoice. The key to this is to use their advanced SEO review process so that the reviews can be seen by the search engines.
- Give away product for reviews. This is a great way to build value or your own website. The data you get from your resellers can be used to build other marketing strategies such as email lists or mobile marketing lists to re-market to at a later date.
- Mandate customer service rules: As mentioned as one of the issues with a distribution model is when a product is sold through one of your resellers websites you have little control over when happens after the sale. I would suggest implementing a set of rules that all resellers must abide by when dealing directly with customers who purchased your product.
- Create a reputation management guide: This rules goes along with the above rule but addresses the online component. Your reputation online is one of the most valuable reputations you have. A great reputation can spread just as fast as a bad reputation. Sites like Rip-off Report have value only when companies default on their social responsibility to be a valued business to their customers. These sites also seem to rank very well in the search results for brand related terms, so it’s best not to get listed on these sites.
All these tactics probably come across as selfish but…
- The first rule is to do no harm to your own website in the search results when undertaking a syndication strategy.
- There are increased overhead cost associated with your reseller network pulling traffic and sales away from your primary website which in turn lowers profit margins for your company.
- Sending traffic away from your website are missed opportunities to build brand.
- Sending traffic to other sites to buy your product can hurt your brand since you have little-to-no control over how your resellers handle their customers after the sale
- With the recent Panda Update content value and uniqueness is becoming more important to driving traffic and rankings, and content duplication will hurt your site
Overall we understand there is value when it comes to embarking on a reseller model online, but it is important that the above rules are followed to lower the risk of brand value being hurt and traffic and sales to your website suffering at the hand of lower quality websites.