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What Is Duplicate Content And How To Prevent It

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Since we are nearing the release of our content management system, Blossom CMS, I thought now would be a good time to go over what duplicate content is and how to either fix it or keep it from happening in the first place. The generated links in our system are all uniform and proper measures are in place so pages don't get indexed incorrectly. But by allowing our clients to manage their own linking system I thought I would go over a few tips to keep things neat and tidy.

Duplicate content is generally refered to as large blocks on content on a single site or accross sites that are similar. A lot of the time this is not deliberate. Take the following pages for example.

  • http://pixelgardenstudio.com

  • http://pixelgardenstudio.com/index.php

or these

  • http://pixelgardenstudio.com/page/blog

  • http://pixelgardenstudio.com/index.php?module=posts

To a search engine all these pages are different, but each group has identical content. When links like this are found by search engines they choose which one they think is best. But we can tell them which one we would like to be listed in a few different ways.

Using 301 Redirects

When reorganizing a site some of the old pages may still exist. Creating a 301 redirect will tell search engines to stop indexing one page, and in turn index the new page instead.

Canonical Meta Tag

The canonical meta tag is used to tell search engines which page to list in their index. For instance this page's canonical link is http://pixelgardenstudio.com/page/blog/post/what-is-duplicate-content-and-how-to-prevent-it. It makes sure that no matter what manner of variables or paths the search engine got to this page the one they are going to index is the one listed on this page.

Consistent Site Linking

When linking to pages within your site always use a consistent linking system. Don't link to http://example.com/newpage in one instance and then http://example.com/newpage/index.html on another. Likewise, if your webmaster has decided to remove the www from the root domain all internal links should not include it either.

Minimize Similar Content

When creating pages that share a lot of the same text try consider expanding the page to include differentiating content for each URL.

Redirecting Multiple Domains Correctly

This one doesn't have to do so much with adding content, as it does with setting a site up properly but I feel it should be mentioned.

When you purchsed your .com domain you probably also picked up the .net or .org to protect your company image. You may even have purchased other domains as you were trying to figure out which one you wanted to use one the site was published. Now that you've made your decision make sure that when forwarding other domains to your default domain that they are in fact redirecting and not masking.

By that I mean if someone types in http://nameididnotchoose.com make sure it redirects (shows up in the address bar) to http://nameilikedthebest.com. If you are only masking the domain you will suffer from duplicate content issues. 

What happens to deliberate content duplication?

If you are deliberately duplicating content to manipulate search engines or ranking factors a few things might happen.

  • The search engine will decide which version of the page to list.

  • The search engine may downgrade your listing and/or page rank.

  • The search engine will remove your site from its listings all together.

For more information on duplicate content see Google's Duplicate Content and Canonicalization pages

Photo credit Sam UL