Google Duplicate Content - can you avoid a duplicate content 'penalty'?
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Google Duplicate Content - can you avoid a duplicate content 'penalty'?

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Now is as good a time as any to re-visit the Google "duplicate content penalty".

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Google does not penalise a website for having duplicate content per se, however the result of using the same content in multiple places can be easily misconstrued as being a penalty.

Logically, why would Google want to show multiple results which contain the same content? The rule of thumb is to, as much as possible, use original content in your website, blog, etc., and you will be well on the way to achieving success.

Duplicate Content Let's look at a real life example. Newsmaker.com.au is a Press Release Distribution website. You can submit press releases for free, as well as pay for premium services.

Looking at NewsMaker over a period of several months, I notice Google picks up the majority of submitted media releases in Google News within a few minutes, and in the normal organic search results some time later.

One of their high profile clients recently posted a press release which SHOULD have appeared in Google News results within minutes of posting because it was newsworthy, important, and current. However, it was totally ignored by the search engine behemoth.

Why? Simply because they copied and pasted the press release from a page in their own website - and of course, Google had already indexed the page from that location. In other words, it wasn't news anymore, and wasn't original.

"Bad" home page links resulting in duplication

There is another issue I see quite a bit which has the same result as duplicated content.

For most websites, the home page should be the root - i.e., http://www.yourwebsite.com. When you hit the "home" button, THAT is where you should land.

These are all examples of home page links I've noticed in different websites:
Google Duplicate Content
  • yourwebsite.com/
  • yourwebsite.com/index.php
  • yourwebsite.com/index.html
  • yourwebsite.com/home.php
  • yourwebsite.com/index.php?id=home
  • yourwebsite.com/?
  • yourwebsite.com/Home.aspx
  • www.yourwebsite.com/?
  • www.yourwebsite.com/index.html
  • www.yourwebsite.com/Home.aspx

If your website URL is www.yourwebsite.com, but your home page button links to www.yourwebsite.com/index.php, that is perceived by Google as being two separate pages - and it has to figure out which is the canonical (see article: Duplicate Content - Canonical URLs and Canonicalization).

Of course, you can always tell Google which is the canonical, but why not just do it right in the first place?

For a demonstration, click this link to go to justweb's home page, then look at the URL in the address bar: http://justweb.com.au. Before you click, note that the link has no "www" in it.

What should be used as the home page URL?

So what SHOULD you use as the link to your home page? That's easy - the humble "/" - that tells the browser to head straight back to the root of your website, where your home page SHOULD be (in most instances).

By the way, many search engine optimisers will tell you not to have a button or link that simply says "Home". Ignore that - you SHOULD have a "Home" button on every page - people need to be able to see how to get back to the home page without having to think about it. Don't hide the home link behind your logo, or some obscure graphic and think it's cool. It may be cool - but not accessible. You can use some anchor text somewhere else on your pages to link back to the home page if you wish.

Anyway, back to duplicate content. Sites that can't get away from using multiple links to the one page (including their home page) may include ecommerce sites for example, where a product page may be linked to using several different parameters or query strings. In this case, canonicalization techniques or redirects should be employed to show Google which link YOU want it to index, or display in its SERPs (search engine results pages).

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Rob - JustWeb

09.01.2010


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