Duplicate Content Out, Canonical Link Element In!

Olivier sent me a txt in the middle of the night 2 weeks ago, directly from SMX West: “Matt Cutts just presented a revolution to the way duplicate content will be handles!”

Well I got to my email and started looking for blogs and tweets on the subject – and it indeed we are probably entering a new phase in the duplicate content fight.

The Duplicate Content Dilemma in 10 lines:

The most basic way to explain, is where you have a piece of content which can be reached from multiple URL’s. Whenever users and search engines go to 2 distinct URLs and get the same (or almost the same) content the robots need to decide whether to index a second version of the same content or not.

This presents lots of issues with ranking for keywords, ranking at all, receiving more or less of Googlebot’s indexing quota and the bottom is we’ve seen this kill websites and revives them the last few years.

There are spam related issues here but from my vast experience mostly its programming and architecture issues which may cause duplication and triplication of the same content via many URL’s.

Canonical Link Element at page level – The Night in Shining Armour?

The Canonical Link Element at page level Google presents will allow web site owners to ‘tell’ the engines which version of the page is the original one, which needs to be indexed.

Did you knowe that in many cases, tracking URLs (those we use to spot affiliates and campaigns) are creating duplicate URLs?
example:

http://www.ophircohen.com/new_post/

http://www.ophircohen.com/new_post/?source=twitter&message=new_post

Both URLs will lead to the same content, but the engines most of the time have a hard time telling whether we’re talking about 1 page w tracking parameters or 2 distinct pages.

The new tag assumes to “hint” the engines on the original (=canonical) URL, and is composed as follows:

<head>

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.ophircohen.com/new_post/”/>

</head>

Tips:

1. This is a new feature – so use it carfully, monitor it’s behavior and don’t count on it TOO much as nobody really knows how fast the engines will be able to process it.

2. Do not stop fighting actual content duplication. Use 301 redirects to make sure all your content look the same and under a unified URL structure. the new link element is just a “hint” to the engine (says Cutts)

Matt Cutts original slides:

And the Video:

Matt Cutts on Canonical

To summarize this, SEO is an evolving creature. Back in the early days “Meta description” was enough, then came Google and links, directories, DMOZ, link exchange, link buyng, link development, link bait and duplicate content. Each of these had a huge hype, buzz and effect on SERPS and on many businesses – It was only a matter of time until Google solves this equazion – the question remains – what’s next?

Categories: SEO

2 Responses so far.

  1. tal galili says:

    In the meantime, here is a wordpress plugin that implement this:
    http://yoast.com/canonical-url-links/

    Cheers,
    Tal

  2. Ophir Cohen says:

    and it even works :-)
    See my canonical…

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