A common misconception within the online community is that there are “penalties” for having duplicate content on your website. Many webmasters tend to get very antsy if they think the folks at Google et al are going to put them in “search engine jail” for having duplicates of this and duplicates of that on their website. In actuality, omission or de-ranking is reserved for only the most blatant offenders.
If your intention is to deliberately steal content from another website or spam your page’s content with keywords with the goal of ranking higher, then you should probably fear Google’s wrath. However, if some pages simply look very similar or are just duplicated because of a stubborn CMS, the worst that will happen is that one of these pages will simply be filtered out and demoted to the supplemental index. The best way around this is to either employ the proper redirects (a topic I discussed in my last blog post) or to make all pages on the site as distinct as possible.
Barring the iron fist of the search engines, it is still good practice to avoid duplicate content for the sake of your users. The more unique content on a website, the wider the reach you will have in the search engines and the better experience you will provide for your users.
Business owners will often purchase multiple domains to take advantage of all of the keyword potential that is to be had. For example, a webmaster that sells horse shoes online (I’m sure there are some) could own www.horseshoes.com, www.Ilovehorses.com and www.mykingdomforahorse.com. In this example, there are different reasons that this webmaster/business owner owns these different URLs.
The first reason could be that they all represent completely different business entities and/or types of websites and the content on each one is distinctly different from the other one. The person that owns and/or operates these websites has no intention of ever combining or redirecting them anywhere else. They are all websites with completely unique objectives that just happen to have something to do with horses.
The second reason (and usually the most common) is that all of these websites have the same or similar content and all share the same purpose; to sell this business’s horseshoes online. The problems that can incur if not handled correctly is content filtering or, even worse, duplicate content penalties in the search engines. To avoid this, one can employ certain strategies.
Firstly, you can identify which domain you prefer to use as the main domain and simply redirect the other two URLs to it with a 301 redirect. The second and probably the least practical solution is to keep them all separate, but make sure there is absolutely no content overlap. Another scenario would be to use the rel=”canonical” tag which (as of December 15th, 2009) you can use across multiple websites. While the rel=”canonical” link element is seen as a hint and not an absolute directive, Google says that they do try to follow it where possible. This tag lets you set the preferred version of a domain with highly similar content and is used in the section of all non-canonical versions of the site.
Have you ever stepped back and looked at your website from a user’s perspective? You only get one first impression, so make sure it’s a lasting one. Good design and functionality is critical in giving a great user experience and is essential in building trust and relationships with your visitors. It is best to think about the experience from your visitor’s perspective, since you really wouldn’t be much without them.
Your website is your face to prospective consumers, and as a result can heavily impact your bond with them. Every interaction a user has on your site directly impacts the relationship they have with you and how they will portray your site to others. Poor design, content errors and confusion can take away from your credibility. A well-designed site, with simple navigation, good content and clear calls to action will impact your business favorably.
Streamline the funnel you want visitors to venture down. Let users know what you want them to do in a clear and concise manner. Don’t confuse or overwhelm the reader with an abundant amount of content and calls to action. Don’t cause frustration or reasons for them to want to leave the site with error messages and pop-ups.
Be sure to enable an analytics tracking system, such as Google Analytics, so you can better assess your users and their experiences on your site. Most analytics platforms allow you to dive deeper into how your traffic has arrived, how much time they spent on a page, if they ventured further into other pages of your site, or if they exited at a certain page, and didn’t venture any further. Analytics can supply you with the ability to monitor trends and patterns with your user’s engagement. Stats can reveal what pages are causing more problems than others. Knowing how your visitors are interacting with your site and what your site’s pain points are, will help to assist you in achieving the best user experience possible. Enabling an analytics platform can help to determine who your target market is, what their likes and dislike are and achieve a higher grade of user engagement.
Always keep in mind that your users are the reason that you can continue to stay in business, so making them happy should remain your main mission. You should consider your users as the main focus behind your design and development efforts and decisions.