Q and A: Do regional domains constitute a duplicate content problem?

QuestionDear Kalena…

First of all I find the info on your site extremely useful -  I always look forward towards the newletter! I have been trying to find the time to do the SEO course but finding the time is always a problem! However, its still on my to do list.

I am trying to sort out a problem regarding duplicate content on my sites. We run local sites for each language/country we trade in (e.g. .fr for France and .co.uk for England). Unfortunately whilst growing the business I never had time to research SEO optimisation practices so I ended up with a lot of sites with the same duplicate content in them including title tags, descriptions etc. I had no idea how bad this was of course for organic ranking!

I have now created unique title tags and description for ALL the pages on ALL the sites. I have also changed the content into unique content for the home page and the paternity testing page (our main pages) for each site in English. The only site with complete unique content pages is .com and parts of .co.uk. For the rest of the pages that still have double content I have also put a NO INDEX, FOLLOW code on the pages that have duplicate content so that the spiders will not index the duplicate content pages. I did a FOLLOW as opposed to NO FOLLOW as I still want the internal links in the pages to be picked up – does this make sense ?

Also having made such changes how long does it normally take for Google to refresh its filters and starting ranking the site? The changes are now about a month old however the site is still not ranking.

Also should this not work – do you have any experience with submitting a re-consideration through the webmaster tools? What are the upside and downside of this?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Regards
Kevin

Dear Kevin

Thanks for your coffee donation and I’m glad you like the newsletter. Now, about your tricky problem:

1) First up, take a chill pill. There’s no need to lodge a reinclusion request to Google. According to Google’s Site Status Tool, your main site is being indexed and hasn’t been removed from their datacenter results. A standard indexed page lookup shows 32 pages from your .com site have been indexed by Google, while a backward link lookup reveals at least 77 other sites are linking to yours. If you’ve put NoIndex tags on any dupe pages, you’ve covered yourself.

2) Next, pour yourself a drink and put your feet up. Your .fr site is also being indexed by Google, but there isn’t a dupe content issue because the site is in French, meaning that Googlebot sees the content as being completely different. Your .co.uk site is also being indexed by Google and again, there isn’t a dupe content issue because it looks like you have changed the content enough to ensure it doesn’t trip any duplicate content filters.

3) Now you’re relaxed, login to Google Webmaster Tools and make sure each of your domains are set to their appropriate regional search markets. To do this, click on each domain in turn and choose “Set Geographic Target” from the Tools menu. Your regional domains should already be associated with their geographic locations i.e. .co.uk should already be associated with the UK, meaning that Google will automatically be giving preference to your site in the SERPs shown to searchers in the UK. For your .com site, you can choose whether to associate it with the United States only (recommended as it is your main market), or not to use a regional association at all.

4) Now it’s time to do a little SEO clean up job on your HTML code. Fire or unfriend whoever told you to include all these unecessary META tags in your code:

  • Abstract
  • Rating
  • Author
  • Country
  • Distribution
  • Revisit-after

All these tags are un-supported by the major search engines and I really don’t know why programmers still insist on using them! All they do is clog up your code and contribute to excessive code bloat.

5) Finally, you need to start building up your site’s link popularity and boost your Google PageRank beyond the current 2 out of 10. And by link building, I mean the good old-fashioned type – seeking out quality sites in your industry and submitting your link request manually, NOT participating in free-for-all link schemes or buying text links on low quality link farms.

Good luck!

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Confirmed: Google removes hacked sites from index

Well I’ve long suspected it and now Matt Cutts has confirmed it: sites that get hacked are removed from Google’s index.

Blogger and mountaineer Ryan Stewart (who I’ve long envied not just for his lack of acrophobia but also for his Google PageRank of 9/10) complained that Google had wiped his blog from the index.

Turns out the removal occurred for security reasons shortly after Ryan’s site was hacked. Here’s an extract from Matt’s comment on Ryan’s blog about the situation:

“Sorry to hear that your blog got hacked. I know that it’s disappointing if you don’t show up in Google, but there’s another way to look at it. It looks like your blog was hacked to show “buy pharmacy”-type links, but what if the hackers had hosted malware on your site? Then every user to your site might have gotten infected just by visiting your site. That danger to Google users is one of the reasons that we temporarily remove hacked sites from Google.”

So be warned, if your site is hacked, you might want to keep an eye on your Google Webmaster Tools account and submit a re-inclusion request as soon as things are back to normal.

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