A website may have several domains that display the same content, such as, the “www” version and the “non-www” version of a website.
In the early days of Google, the crawler would select one domain to index based on the number of authoritative links pointing to the site.
However, in the aftermath of multiple updates to the Google algorithm, such as, Penguin and Panda, duplicate content became a more important issue. Now the search engine looks for websites to “add value.” Duplicate content definitely does not qualify as valuable content.
When Google crawls websites and finds two different domains with exactly or very similar content, the search engine marks these sites for “duplicate content.”
The crawler is not sure which site to select as the main site.
The search engine may index the wrong domain. One or both of the sites may be penalized by reducing their position in the Search Engine Results or worse, Google may remove the site(s) from the results altogether.
Most website owners don’t realize they have one or more duplicate sites. For example, the following domains are examples of how a website may show up with duplicate content:
In this case, the 1st domain is the main domain for this website. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th domains are redirected to the 1st domain.
If Google found all 4 of these sites, the crawler may not know which site is the main website domain location (in this case, http://www.roaringpajamas.com), and may either pick the wrong version or worst case, penalize all 4 domains due to duplicate content.
The solution is really very simple. A domain “redirect” should be placed on all the “duplicate” websites, redirecting traffic from those sites to the preferred domain.
Redirects have several types. The most common type are the 301 redirect and the 302 redirect.
A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect that moves traffic from one site to another for a period of time. This type of redirect is undesirable because it’s not permanent, does not pass link value and may cause problems for the website owner over time.
The 301 redirect is a “permanent” redirect and is the desirable type of redirect to be used for moving traffic from a duplicate site to the preferred domain web pages.
Redirects are often placed at the server level and sometimes can be set up in the editor’s interface for a website using a Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. However, the user must make sure that the default redirect is a 301 and not a 302 redirect.
In the example above, the following sites would be redirected to http://www.roaringpajamas.com:
Of course, a 301 redirect would be used.
If a site owner does not have an easy way for a user to set up redirects, the site’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be contacted for assistance.
Making Sure the Redirects are Correct
Once redirects are created, they can be checked using a tool such as URIValet. Roaring Pajamas uses this site to validate all redirects for our clients. URIValet is easy to use. Just enter the URL that should be redirected, press enter and wait until the results appear. Then scroll down to see the 301 Redirect information and the URL that is the target of the redirect.
A proper SEO strategy includes a complete list of redirects to ensure that redundant copy is not counted by Google for website rankings. Duplicate pages or websites can be properly redirected to avoid a penalty or worse.
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