Duplicate content – How to solve it with SEO

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Duplicate content is a problem for many sites, often the site owner does not even realize his/her site has this problem and is being penalized by Google and other search engines, whilst loosing valuable PageRank. Let me explain this in more detail and offer you a simple solution;


Let’s get the terminology out of the way first. Canonicalisation is computer speak and means the same page can be represented in more than one way.

For example, you may not be aware your home page may have the following versions;

1)      www.example.com.au

2)      example.com.au

3)      www.example.com.au/

4)      example.com.au/

5)      www.example.com.au/index.html

6)      example.com.au/index.html

7)      www.example.com.au/home.aspx

8)      example.com.au/home.aspx

Is this a problem? YES

Should you care about it? YES!

Why is duplicate content a problem?

1)      If Google indexes your website and your home page shows up several times, google will think you have duplicate content. Google penalizes you for having duplicate content! Its plagiarism or old fashioned cheating, and you should try and avoid it at all costs.

2)      All your back links go to any of the above 8 versions of your homepage. Each version of your homepage will attain its own ranking which dilutes the PageRank of your preferred (canonical) page. Why share the linking-love with all these pages that are essentially the same?

How can you find out if you have a duplicate content problem?

Type into the Google search box:

site: example.com.au

You may now find that Google has indexed more than one URL for your home page eg.

1)      example.com.au

2)      example.com.au/home.htm

How do you solve Google having indexed several URLs which are essentially the same?

–          Ideally you avoid having more than one version per page from the very beginning, so make sure you or your content management system (CMS) creates standardized URLs which are always the same.

–          Also make sure you are consistent yourself when it comes to linking internally and have all your preferred (canonical )links in your sitemap.

–          Use Google Webmaster Tools to tell the Google spider about your preferred URL. This is a free tool to use and works best if you set it up from the start.

All this does not clean up all the non-canonical URLs you may have floating around though. If you have found that you have a duplicate content issue you can do a number of things. Best practice is to insert a canonical link element or set up a 301 redirect.

Canonical Link Element (UPDATED CONTENT 22-dec 2009)

Insert a canonical link element into the head section of your website. Google announced on 15th Dec that this link element now also can be used for cross domains.  It tells the search engines which of the various URLs you want to be the ‘official’ URL. It looks like this:


<link rel=”canonical” href=http://yourdomain.com.au/page.html />


It is a great solution for when you or your web developers do not have time or are not able to set up a permanent 301 redirect. Remember, the tag is used a suggestion not as a directive.

Permanent (301) redirect

You can also use a permanent (301) redirect from all your non-canonical pages to your canonical or preferred pages.  It is very similar to the canonical link element, but it is the preferred method of migrating content. It not a suggestion but a very clear directive.  So you can redirect www.anotherexample.com.au to www.example.com.au

Client Website Revamp – Risk of losing PageRank

Redirecting pages to new keyword rich URLs

I recently helped a client with the on-page optimization of their new website.

Firstly, they conducted keyword research and found that in order to achieve better ranking they had to slightly change the keyword combinations they were using. This affected their page titles and URL structure.

Their existing site already has been around for years and they did not want to lose all the back links to their current pages, even though those were not keyword optimized.

The simplest way to avoid losing their PageRank was to set up permanent (301) redirects from their old pages to their new.  This way they could continue with the optimization of their site and implement the new keyword phrases into their structure and content without risking going down on the Search Result Pages.


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