If you have been following Google trends on a regular basis, you should be aware of the search engine’s latest measure for fighting website malpractice, the Google Penguin Update. Google is somewhat secretive about this spam killer, and it is not disclosing much details. However, it is clear about the purpose of this update, and that is to eradicate websites that do not follow its web guidelines.
During the announcement of the Penguin Update, head of web spam at Google, Matt Cutts, said that the company is not revealing too much information about the update to prevent the gaming of search results, which can worsen user experience. He advised website owners to concentrate on creating top quality websites that provide a good experience for their visitors, and use ethical SEO techniques instead of web spam tactics.
Many website owners use web spam tactics, such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, and cloaking, to propel their websites to higher rankings in Google. With the implementation of the Google Penguin Update, websites that use such tactics and violate the quality standards that are set by Google will have their rankings lowered. So, as long as website owners conform to the quality standards, they will have a better chance of achieving high rankings.
One of the recommendations that you will find on Google’s list of quality standards is to avoid having a substantial amount of duplicate content in your website. Most website owners are aware of the adverse effects that duplicate content can have on their websites’ rankings in Google, but some of them may not be making constant effort to minimize it. The Google Penguin Update serves as a reminder for them to reevaluate all aspects of their websites and make the necessary improvements and changes to achieve a higher standard of quality. Duplicate content is not regarded as a form of deception by Google, but it is one of the things that can get websites into trouble. It may cause websites to lose favor with the search engine, even if it is not intended to be spam. It has been found that some website owners duplicate content deliberately from websites to manipulate rankings in search engines and gain more traffic. Such deceptive practice can lead to unpleasant user experience, because users will be seeing similar content appearing several times in the search results.
If you have duplicate content in your website, you should follow these tips that are provided by Google:
Apply 301 redirects – If your website is restructured, you can redirect users and search engine spiders by implementing 301 redirects, or “RedirectPermanent”, in your .htaccess file. This can be done if you are using Apache. For IIS, you have to do it through your administrative console.
Make sure your internal linking is consistent – It is important that you make your internal links consistent. If you are linking to http://www.website.com/, make sure that it remains exactly the same every time you link to the same page. Do not link to http://www.website.com or http://www.website.com/index.htm.
Use a top-level domain – When you are handling content that is specific to a certain country, it is best that you use a top-level domain. This will help Google serve the right version of the content. For example, http://www.website.de implies that the content of the website is focused on Germany more than, say, http://de.website.com or http://www.website.com/de.
Be careful when syndicating – When it comes to syndicating content in other websites, Google will display the version that it considers the most suitable for the user who performs the search, and it may not be the same version as the one you prefer. It is recommended that you include a link to the original content in every website that you have syndicated your content in. It is also a good idea to ask users of your syndicated content to use the “no index” meta tag, so that search engines will not index the version they prefer.
Let Google know how you want it to index your website – This can be done by using webmaster tools. Just tell Google the domain you prefer; for instance, http://website.com or http://www.website.com.
Reduce boilerplate repetition – Instead of having lengthy text about copyright at the end of a web page, you can include a short summary and a link to more information. Also, you can inform Google of your preference for the treatment of URL parameters by using Parameter Handling.
Refrain from publishing stubs – Avoid placeholders wherever possible, because users do not like “empty” pages. Try not to publish a page if you do not have content for it yet. If you want to have placeholder pages, you can block them from getting indexed by using the “no index” meta tag.
Understand how your website manages content – You should have a good understanding of how content appears in your website. The content that is displayed in your blog may also appear in other pages, such as home page, archive page, or others.
Minimize similarity in content – If many of the pages in your website are similar, you should try to expand or consolidate them. For example, a travel website may have content on two pages about two cities, and both the pages have similar information. Each of the two pages can be expanded to include unique content on each city, or they can be combined to form a single page about both cities.
It is important that you do not keep duplicate content in your website away from Google. If you do this, the search engine will not be able to identify URLs that lead to the same content, and it will regard them as separate web pages. Try using the canonical link tag (rel=”canonical”).
Under ordinary circumstances, Google does not regard duplicate content as something that it should penalize you for. However, it will penalize you if it thinks that the duplicate content is being used for the purpose of deception. It is still better to minimize duplicate content in your website, because algorithms are prone to error.
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