The funny thing about duplicate content is that you don't really have to have it for it to appear as if you do have it. But whether you have duplicate content on your site or not, to the search engines appearances are everything . The engines are pretty much just mindless bots that can't reason. They only see what is, or appears to be there and then do what the programmers have determined through the algorithm.
How you set up your internal linking structure plays a significant role in whether you set yourself up to appear if you have duplicate content on your site or not. Some things we do without thinking, setting ourselves up for problems ahead. With a little foresight and planning, you can prevent duplicate content issues that are a result of poor internal link development.
For example, we know that when we link to
site.com/page1.html in one place but then link to
www.site.com/page1.html in another, that we are really linking to the same page. But to the search engines, the www. can make a difference. They'll often look at those two links as links to two separate pages. And then analyze each page as if it is a duplicate of the other.
But there is something we can do with our internal linking to alleviate this kind of appearance of duplicate content.
Link to the www. version only
Tomorrow I'll provide information on how to set up your site so when someone types in yoursite.com they are automatically redirected to www.yoursite.com. It's a great permanent fix, but as a safety measure, I also recommend simply adjusting all your links internally to do the same.
In the image above you can see that the domain contains the
www., but when you mouse over any of the navigation links, they point to pages without the
www. Even if you have a permanent redirect in place, all the links on your site should point to the proper place. At the very least you're making the search engines and visitors NOT have to redirect. At best, should your redirects ever fail, or get deleted, your site will still be set up to handle everything properly.
Don't link to secure versions of non-secure pages
I already covered how to set up your shopping cart links in a previous post, but I'll go ahead and touch on it here again. People often make two mistakes:
1) They send visitors to secure pages as soon as someone adds a product, and/or
2) the site links link out of the secure area using secure URLs.
When setting up your shopping carts, make sure visitors don't enter the secure area until they are ready to check out. And when they do, make absolutely sure that any links back to the main site go to non-secure pages.
For the latter, one of the ways to prevent that is to use absolute URLs in your global navigation. Absolute URLs contain the full URL page:
http://www.site.com/page.htm. When you use relative URLs, the link only contains the relevant information needed to get from point A to point B:
../page.htm. The rest of the information is assumed by the browser based on where the visitor is in the site. So if they are in the secure version of the site (
https://), all relative links will tack on the
https:// by default. To prevent this, absolute URLs are the only way to go.
And don't forget the items in your shopping cart. Products that link back to the product pages also need to use absolute URLs!
Link to the root, not home page file name
By nature, every site really has two (or more) home pages:
www.yoursite.com/index.htm will both take the visitors and the search engines the same content. There are two fixes for this. One is to create a permanent redirect which I'll discuss tomorrow. The other is to change all your "home page" links to point to
www.site.com. If you use global includes for headers and footers, this is relatively easy. If not, then you might have to go in and change all your pages by hand. Either way, it's worth taking the time doing.
This article is part of a series on duplicate content. Follow the links below to read more:
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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