Duplicate Content | Is Your Business Website Silently Infected?

duplicate_contentDuplicate content is the starring actor in two distinct scenarios, namely on and off site promotion.

On Site Dupe

This occurs when two or more pages on your site are considered similar enough by the search engines that the search engine doesn’t feel the need to include both of them in its index of webpages. And when a page isn’t included in the SE index,

1. It can’t rank for any keyword phrase;

2. It can’t pass on any link juice or PageRank from pages linking to it;

If a page can’t pass link reputation and PR it’s considered a black hole in the website’s internal linking structure and this leads to poor rankings in SERPs. If a lot of your webpages are considered duplicate content by the search engines your entire website is on a sure death course.

Still, for whitehat websites having 1-3 duplicated pieces of content is considered to be well within the acceptable margins.

The majority of online marketers don’t even know they are practicing this “no, no”. And the most exposed types of websites are thin affiliate sites, ecommerce sites, submission sites with few submissions and blogs.

So how can you tell?

First of, evaluate your webpage layout: probably has a header, footer, navigation bar and/or sidebars, right? These usually don’t change as you go from one content page to another and they make up what is called the site template.

Although it’s easy for human eyes to disregard repetitive blocks of content (text and images alike) and focus only on the unique content in a webpage, the Google spider sees all and indexes all.

Ecommerce websites. As I mentioned above, the problem with ecommerce sites is that they sometimes contain brief product reviews and producer guidelines (reduced only on a text raw and a descriptive picture).

Duplicate content issue makes its entry when the content container is outweighted by template’s total number of words. Keep in mind that Googlebot can’t read pictured text bodies as well as classic pictures that make up the template.

The problem is really that simple to explain and it’s even easier to repair. All that’s required is to calculate the proportion of text template relative to text in the content container. Here’s how:

Select the whole webpage, paste it into a word processor, remove the text from content container and count the remaining words which make up the template. Once you have the number, create some unique text, more than you have in the page template. This will pull down the dupe red flag and also differentiate your webpage among similar product pages (from an SEO perspective).

A genuine duplicate content trigger is the Title Tag. Make sure your title tags are all different across website. Here’s a safety tip: don’t use stop words as title tag differentials (mouthful, I know :) . Stop words are a collection of words systematically disconsidered by the GoogleBot when evaluating page relevancy for the searched keyterms.

Another duplicate content scenario includes heavily used product reviews and guidelines throughout multiple ecommerce sites. This issue will be discussed in the affiliate websites section, below.

Affiliate websites. Google is constantly updating their duplicate content filters and as the company gets stronger, chances are that your affiliate website gets filtered out from the search results due to large numbers of such sites being launched.

The thing with Google is that its aim is to render only one offer for a particular affiliate program and the one who gets the SERP position is usually the marketer with the most authoritative website, namely older domain and lots of backlinks.

For the other affiliates is basically a deft struggle to appear in SERP, with no one decisively breaking the exclusive party. If you’re promoting an affiliate offer with SEO, use the following strategy:

1. Rewrite the offer and make the content textually unique – your not just another affiliate website for the company X in Google’s index.

2. Bring conceptually unique content – argument what separates you from the other affiliates competing for the same product/service; give the product a new perspective, associated with you as a marketing brand – this build authority throughout the community and helps build inbound links.

3. Increase the number of webpages of your affiliate website – build a thorough, informational website that backs the offer(s) with competent guides and tips.

Blogs. Blogs are well appreciated for their content management features, but if you’re not careful you could end up with blog posts and articles showing in three, five or six different locations.

In order to avoid duplicate content in blogs, make sure you include each blog post/article in its appropriate category and avoid multiple category inclusions. This rule of thumb stands at the base of the silo structuring as a SEO method.

Also, be careful on how you use “more” feature available for each blog post or article. What you want to do is use it in every post so that just the barest amount of information is published on the home page while the bulk remains in the actual content page.

For the other blog features that enhance the user’s experience, such as archives, featured authors section, popular posts, etc. you should have them blocked from the Googlebot – using the robots.txt file – so that the only access point to content pages is through the main sections (categories). In addition to this, if you structure your blog by categories, use rel=”nofollow” attribute to link to the date based archive in order to focus PageRank to more important parts.

Duplicating on the World Wide Web

Syndication context

Meaning identical or very similar content present across multiple websites. Although opinions differ, this scenario, from my perspective, can’t hurt your website; as a matter of fact, when done appropriately, in network marketing this is called syndication not duplicate content spamming. There is a sensitive exception to this – Google can’t find out that you’re the webmaster of multiple “duplicated” websites!

Although syndicating content across multiple websites, even exactly the same piece of text, isn’t a case for getting penalized by Google, it can’t improve your rankings either, if you don’t strive to let the Google spider know that your website is the original recipient of that syndicated content.

If you choose to syndicate the exact content published on your website, make sure the content was indexed on your site first and place a link back to the original content page on your site (ensures you gain PR). Be mindful about not over-syndicating.

Still, the wise thing to do is rewrite the original content and submit the copy to different syndication points, again, with a backlink to your page.

Even if it’s harder with articles to include links outside the resource box, try to have many links referencing additional information on your website. Not only this practice benefits you in terms of SEO but also content scrapers find it difficult to maintain text coherence if they choose to remove the your hyperlinks.

Canonical URLs

There are search engines that will evaluate yourdomain.com as different from the www.yourdomain.com, considering them as two distinct websites with the same content. This will split your link popularity between each versions, thus decreasing you rankings.

What should you do about it:

• 301 redirect one version to the other, so SE doesn’t index both;

• use the rel=”canonical” attribute. For more infos check out Trevor Walter’s post on Using Canonical Links To Prevent Duplicate Site Content.

• Use only absolute links in your link building campaigns;

• Pick a preferred version (www or non-www) in your Webmaster Account.

As far as split testing is concerned I suggest using Google’s Website Optimizer rather than generating multiple URLs with tracking software.

P.S. 1: If you liked the article, do me a favour and pass it along with your friends or business partners. It’s easyto do, just press on one of the syndication channels listed after these lines or send it as a tweet using the green button above. Thanks! :)

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