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On the subject of duplicate content

Rob

December 22nd, 2009.

So you think you’ve got a search engine friendly website?

One of the first tasks we perform when working with a new client on search promotion is a health check of the website.  The idea is to make sure that the way the site is built does not hamper its performance in search engines.

Business owners and managers don’t have time to learn technical jargon, so if their web developer puts keywords in the URL then the “search engine friendly website” box is ticked.  There’s a bit more to it of course, and here are some pointers…….

First things first – hosting

Is your website a .com address? Which company is hosting the site, and where are their servers located?

.com / .net / .org and similar domains are glamorous for businesses as they don’t “belong” to a country like a .co.uk web address does. When confronted with a .com (and other non-country specific domains) search engines look at where the server is geographically located to determine which country the website is intended for. If your website is aimed at a British audience, has a .com address and is hosted on a server in Germany, then your website will tend to perform better in natural search results done by people on German soil.  You need to host your website with a company that has servers in the same place as the majority of your customers.

Put your web address in http://whois.domaintools.com to find out more.

If you’ve got a .co.uk or a country specific domain, then you don’t need to take any action.

How much Flash on my site?

Sites built completely in flash don’t always do well in search engines, and tend to be used as a marketing tool or a campaign site. http://www.speakvisual.com is a good example of a brand using flash as a showcase site.

speak-visual

If you go to Google and search for something competitive that people want to buy e.g. consumer goods, clothing, specialist equipment etc, the sites that feature at the top of the natural listings make limited use of flash and concentrate on providing text that search engine spiders can crawl.

Want to see your site like a search engine does? Go to http://www.seo-browser.com and enter your URL.

If you see some text and blue underlined hyperlinks, then what you see is what a search engine knows about your site. If you can click your way through to all your pages then a search engine can do the same.  Try getting to Colin Smiths’ page on Speak Visual using SEO-Browser…..

Canonicalization

There are a number of different definitions of this word. Google them at your leisure.  For this tutorial its the process of choosing between http://www.example.com and http://example.com versions of pages.

Try this simple test go to your website and type in one of your deeper pages without the “www” part e.g.  http://example.com/page

  • if the website automatically adds the “www” to the URL and you see the page you expect then you’ve got nothing to worry about
  • if the website shows both http://example.com/page and http://www.example.com/page then you’ve got duplicate content that needs to be fixed

Duplicate content

“If I’ve got more than one version of the same page on my site then its all good! It means there’s a greater chance of search engines finding it right?”

Search engines take the view that information on a website should not be repeated, and generally adds one version of a page to their records, and ignores other versions.

http://www.webconfs.com/similar-page-checker.php have a good tool for checking duplicate content.

Canonicalization is one instance where duplicate content may happen.  For ecommerce sites a particular problem is where a product may “live” permanently in the brands category, and the lifestyle section, and therefore will have two (or more) web addresses for the same item.

The content management system can be configured to create only one version of a page, and its worth talking to your team about their proposed way of addressing this.

Page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, and headings

Search engines scan the HTML code on websites for clues as to what the site is about.  Its easy to get carried away here so in order to keep it simple….

page title <TITLE>

Each page on your website should have a unique title with the most important word starting on the left….

description <meta name=”Description” content=”…..>

The information that appears here is not visible to customers looking at your pages, however search engines sometimes use this text as a summary of the page when it lists natural search results.  This should include calls to action to encourage people to click on your entry rather than others listed on the page…..

headings <h1> – <h6>

<h1> is the most important heading <h2> less so, and so on. So keywords important to your business (and appropriate to the content on the page) should be organised accordingly…..

Most content management administration systems give you the ability to manually edit page titles, and meta descriptions.

Take action

Hopefully this article has explained what some of the jargon in SEO-world means, and you now know what impact it can have on your business.  Have the conversation with your people, and if any of the above need attention, ask them to fix it.

Adam Adam

December 9th, 2008.

Your Product Pages- How Copying The Manufacturers Description Harms a Site

If you own or operate an e-commerce website, chances are your competition may supply the same products you do. While competition is great, there are certain considerations you should make regarding the content on your product pages to beat your competitors.

Every product page should have great descriptions of the product, as well as inviting and well-presented professional photography to entice and attract searchers into making a purchase. However, one common mistake many e-commerce sites make is copying the descriptions written by the manufacturer.

Lets take the Apple iPhone product page as an example:

From the official product page, searching for the first sentence “With its beautiful 3.5-inch widescreen display and Multi-Touch controls, iPhone is also one amazing iPod” in Google returns 13,500 pages!

iphone duplicate content example

This shows there are hundreds of pages using the default description as the description on their pages- causing lots of duplicate content in Google’s index.

Why is This a Problem for You?

Duplicate content is a large problem search engines face. Search engines do not want to display pages in their results which contain the same content as another, as this can affect their credibility in delivering the closest possible results to which the searcher is looking for.

In addition, search engines do not want to waste their time indexing content which is provided on another site, so may skip a duplicated page, and are likely to skip an entire site if too many duplications are found. This not only has an effect on the new product page but also has a knock-on effect to other pages already indexed- penalising your site.

And this example is just for one product- supposing you sold other Apple products and copied the description from the manufacturers product pages? This means a large amount of the text on your product pages is copied.

This causes a problem for your site in search engines, as duplicate content is a major problem which search engines can and will penalise your site for!

So how can you avoid this problem? The ideal solution is to not copy the manufacturers description to begin with. Instead, creating your own product descriptions is far better- not only can you tailor it more specifically to your customers needs and desires (thus getting you a better conversion rate), but this also gives search engines more unique content to crawl when indexing your page.

If however it is essential to copy the product description from the manufacturers site, ensure you add additional unique content to the page- and don’t forget to reference and link to the manufacturers page.

By applying this small change, search engines are less likely to penalise your site for duplicate content, giving you a better chance of outranking your competitors, along with other on-page and off-page optimisation techniques!

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