Q & A: Duplicate content with dynamic sites.

QuestionDear Kalena…

I’m working on a CFM database driven site and Google thinks we have hundreds of duplicate title tags and descriptions because pages on the site can be accessed using the normal page # and/or the page # plus navigation query strings.

Example: (these 3 urls all go to the same page and Google is logging them as 3 different pages in my Google Webmaster View)

1) body.cfm?id=19‎

2) body.cfm?id=19&oTopID=19‎‎

3) body.cfm?id=19&oTopId=62‎‎

To avoid a duplicate content penalty I cleaned up my sitemap.xml to only include the page # with no query strings. (Example = body.cfm?id=19‎) In my robots.txt file I’ve also added the disallow code to block any file with ‘TopId’ in the url. I’m hoping this will help…have you experienced this type of problem before?

Thanks! Mitch

Dear Mitch,

Your question was the source of some debate over here, so thanks for bringing it up! There is a question as to whether Google will actually index pages with session ID’s, and the general thinking is no, so you may be in the clear.

You seem to be handling the problem of duplicate content with database driven sites well, however. It’s best to pick one of the URL’s to include in your site map. You can also be sure NOT to link to any of these pages with duplicate content, from within your site. If you do need to link to these pages, be sure to use “no follow” tags on your link.

Best of luck, Nick Loeser

TheSmallMerchant.com

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Q and A: How do I report a competitor’s spamming to Google?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have just started up an SEO company in Bangkok called Search Sense Thailand and have my first real break. Yesterday I got a new job to work on a real estate agent’s website, with a brief to get them onto the first page of Google for Bangkok Property.

But there’s one site, position #2, that has duplicated six websites, all linking to one another and using keyword spam on all their domain names. And I cannot compete with it! Why does Google weigh the domain name so heavily? Why does it allow duplicate content, from the same owner to dominate their search? This is just plain wrong. I would like some help on this, please. How can I get Google to take any notice?

Pun

Dear Pun,

Out of curiosity I checked Google and did a search for “Bangkok Property” and did not notice the issue you are stating above. This is not surprising, as Google often shows different results for different users.

However, to answer your question. If you would like to report spammy activity to Google you can use the link below. If I were you I would concentrate on all of the good whitehat tactics that you no-doubt employee, and try to beat him that way. By collecting good quality, relevant links, and filling the site with useful relevant content you can eventually beat him.

http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

Best of luck, Nick Loeser

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Q and A: Do we need to optimize multiple sites individually?

QuestionHello Kalena

You were very helpful in answering a previous questions.

I have a client who has about 5 or 6 online dating websites. He wants to set up one website with a new domain and link them to all the other websites, but he wants to optimize only this one website instead of optimizing each individual websites.

My recommendation to him is to optimize each website separately since they all have separate keywords. Do you think this is the correct way to go? Thank you!

Mirna

Dear Mirna

I think what you’re asking is: should your client optimize each site individually or redirect all to a single optimized site? Without knowing the URLs of your client’s sites, it’s difficult to answer this one.

If your client has multiple stand-alone sites that each target a specific market and they can each be logically optimized for unique keywords, then I would agree with you that optimizing the individual sites one-by-one would be the way to go.

On the other hand, if your client has a single target market and each of the existing sites contain similar or duplicate content and are only for lead generation for the main site or company, then I would suggest redirecting them all to a single branded site optimized for your client’s main keywords.

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Q and A: Does the canonicalization of my URL impact my search engine rankings?

QuestionHello Kalena…

I was wondering if you know anything about the www prefix. My hosting company has my site registered with the www and without, as the same for all sites, I believe. Does this affect how the websites are viewed by the search engines? Also, some directories have my site listed without the www even if I have submitted it with. Does this affect how Google for example counts external links to my site? I have asked many people and no one has been able to answer my question.

Mirna

Hi Mirna

Timely question! I was just discussing this issue today on Twitter. Just to clarify, when you talk about your site being listed with and without the www prefix, that’s called the canonicalization of your domain. Basically, it just refers to your preferred URL for a site, whether that’s with the www prefix or without. Matt Cutts goes into more detail about canonicalization in this post.

Search engines can sometimes index both versions of your domain, creating duplicate content headaches for you and also link popularity dilution. For those reasons, I strongly recommend you decide which URL version you are happiest with and implement 301 permanent redirects at the server end to ensure your preferred version is served no matter which version is typed in. You can also set your preferred domain within Google Webmaster Tools.

Loren Baker wrote a post about the canonicalization issue today, so you might find that helpful. I concur with Loren that using the www is a no-brainer.

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The duplicate content penalty (and other fairytales)

The day has escaped my grasp once again and it’s already tomorrow, so just a quick one tonight.

Lots of questions submitters ask me about duplicate content on their sites and how that impacts their visibility in Google. Many are convinced a ranking penalty will be slapped on them by the Google Gods, but this is a myth. I’ve written a post about this over at my blog on SiteProNews so if you’re at all confused about dupe content, check it out.

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