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SEO Website Audit

Fixing Duplicate Content

March 4, 2009

Dear Jill,

We have a travel website where people can enquire about beautiful small hotels we offer. Even though each hotel has a unique URL with unique content, the categories pages have a duplication problem.

We have, for example, categories such as "on the beach," "romantic," "villas," "luxury," etc. Many hotels belong in more than one category, so the category pages comprise hotel "short descriptions/modules" that are repeated across the various categories.

None of the pages is an exact duplicate, but they are not completely unique either, so link juice may be diluted.

We have thought hard about this, but have not found a solution.

Best wishes,

Roger


++Jill's Response++

Hi Roger,

This is very similar to a question I answered earlier this month regarding what's known as "canonical" issues:

Same Content, Different URLs

At the time, there was no easy solution other than fixing the CMS. Unfortunately, that's often a lot easier said than done. However, soon after the newsletter was published, Google's Matt Cutts announced at the SMX West conference a new HTML "tag" that they call the "Canonical Link Element."

 

Matt's got a great video tutorial explaining what canonical page issues are, as well as various ways to fix them, plus how to use this new element in your HTML code when your situation calls for it. 

 

The idea of this new element is to provide you with a way to tell the search engines which URL is the preferred one if and when they find similar content being shown at different URLs. From what Matt says in the video, it appears that any link popularity or PageRank that might otherwise be split by multiple URLs will be channeled to the preferred URL. Since that's the main reason why you don't typically want multiple URLs for the same content, this is indeed a much-needed fix.

 

The code itself goes into the <HEAD> section of the page and looks simply like this:

 
<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/page.html"/>

 

This issue has plagued webmasters, developers, and SEOs for ages, so it's great that all of the major search engines have announced that they will support this element. Of course, it's still very new, so we've yet to see how well it works. Of course, as always when using any tag or element on your website that the search engines specifically made up, you are letting them know that you know a thing or two about SEO. But if you're not a tinfoil hat paranoid SEO, it shouldn't matter...right?


Best,

Jill


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Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.

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Post Comment

 Al Kalar said:
Good info. I almost understand it (LOL).

Now, if I can figure out how to make almost duplicate "landing pages" without getting penalized, I'd be a happy fellow. I do it mostly 'cause Adwords wants "relevant" content for key words for them to rate "great". The Google algorithm here seems a bit flaky.
 Jill said:
@Al, you don't get penalized for duplicate content pages, you only see one version (typically) show up in the search results for any given phrase.
 Craig Chant said:
This new attribute on the link tag is cool , especially as it's not just a G! thing, but will be adopted by all the big SE's.

This will help people immensely in consolodating their PR juice to one uniformed page.

Not to mention remove the issue of people accidentally using uppercase & lowercase letters when linking to your site.

Something I never realised G! suffered from.

Adding this attribute to all my pages has gone to the top of my things to do list.

Nice one Jill
 Vic said:
Jill,

What if someone dupes your content, throws it on their site and ALSO uses the canonical tag on the page? How will Google know which one is the original? (I've seen this happen).

Thanks,

Vic
 Jill Whalen said:
@Vic, I'm not sure what the canonical link element would have to do with it. What are they putting in the rel=canonical?

Regardless, people are going to steal your content. If they're not providing you with credit, you should contact them to take it down. If they are providing you with credit, make sure it's the way you want it to be, with your bio and links.

Google doesn't typically know (or need to know) which content is the original. They will choose to show the one that they feel is the most authoritative, based on their PageRank scores (not toolbar PR, real PR).
 Vic said:
Jill,

What they're putting in the canonical tag is a link to their own page with the lifted content instead of the originating page.

Thanks for taking the time to answer. :)

Best regards,

Vic

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