Nobody likes spam. Well, maybe the spammers do, but they rarely admit to it. Regular, everyday web users hate it. Grandmas trying to see pictures of their family’s newest addition hate it. Parents of adolescents hate it. Businesses really hate it. Google is trying to do something about it. 
 
Numerous complaints about unhelpful search results have Google reeling, so they recently launched changes to their algorithm in order to combat the spammers. We all know that Google’s main goal is to return the most relevant, valuable, and accurate results on the Web. This new algorithm is meant to lower the ranking of sites that do not offer much useful or original content of their own. 
 
Matt Cutts, Google’s principle engineer, confirmed the launch, stating, “Google will be evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.” This means that they are focusing on all sites that publish duplicate content. 
 
On Google’s blog, Matt goes in depth to discuss the decrease of “pure web spam,” which is, “junk you see in search results when websites try to cheat,” and says their attention is currently focused on “content farms.” So, what does this mean for you, your website rankings and your business? If Google is focusing on issues of duplicate content, you should make sure that your site is not going to be targeted. 
 
Duplicate Content
 
A web surfer is trying to learn as much information as possible about, say, a celebrity’s recent activity. If the first 5-8 search results provide the exact same information, or even the very same text, they might get annoyed. While there are certain loopholes around duplicate content (such as syndicated content or the Associated Press), Google does not really want to show you the same 5-8 pages of results. Trending topics tend to find exceptions.
 
Lindsay Lohan Google Results
 
At Best Rank we encourage all of our clients to create content-rich websites, but we sometimes have to define the differences between content for content’s sake, and content for users’ and search engines’ sake. Many of our clients ask if they can just use the same information over several pages, and only change the relevant keywords. That can result in useless filler content on a site. While some webmasters might not care about certain pages being indexed, Google’s new "spamquest" might mark that duplicate content as malicious.
 
There are two main intentions of duplicate content. The first is to make something about your site easier. Perhaps you have a ‘print version’ of a page, or you want to provide pages that target something very specific so you merely change the colors, products or locations. In the former case it is important to use your robots.txt file to determine which page gets indexed, in the latter, it is crucial that you make each page unique and valuable enough to stand on its own, rather than merely changing one word throughout the page. The second form of duplicate content is seen as "malicious intent" by Google, and it refers to copying and pasting content either in the form of a content farm, or as a way to piggyback on someone else’s work, and increase your page rank. 
 
As a business or website owner, it is important to avoid duplicate content issues. The previous algorithm worked quite simply. In most cases, Google would simply filter out the second occurrence of the content, only indexing the page that went online first. In extreme cases, or if they think there is malicious intent, Google would adjust the ranking of all sites involved in the duplicate content issue.
 
Now it seems Google might be defaulting to the latter option if there is a question of duplicate content, though it is hard to tell. They may just surprise us all with better, cleaner search results in the future. For now, here are a few ways Google advises we avoid duplicate content issues on our websites. For their complete version, visit Google’s Webmaster Central Blog: Deftly Dealing with Duplicate Content. 
 
How can Webmasters proactively address duplicate content issues?
  • Block appropriately: Disallow directories or use robots.txt files to block the “Print version” or secondary version of content from being indexed.
  • Use 301s: Redirect users and Googlebots.
  • Be consistent: Use intelligent and consistent internal navigation. A savvy web designer can create navigation that is functional and aesthetically pleasing so don’t give up!
  • Syndicate carefully: Make sure you have a link back to your original article. This may not be the one that shows up, but it should save your site from being blocked.
  • Use the preferred domain feature of webmaster tools: Claim your www and non-www versions of your site. Redirect, or just let Google know which version you prefer.
  • Minimize boilerplate repetition: Put a summary boilerplate on each page of your site that links to a longer version with more complete information, rather than a long version on each page.
 If you need help with any of these suggestions from a search engine marketing team, you know where to find us!

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