There are a number of ways that this can be resolved, however, and as always – a bit of pre-planning to prevent this is a much better option than trying to fix it later.
For the purpose of this example, let’s pretend we’re running an online Pet Shop (called Kit’s Cats). One of our products might be ‘Rat Flavour Cat Food’. Typically this will have it’s own page, with a few details about about the product, images, price and so on.
And, this product page might be listed within a few different categories, such as:
- Cat Food
- Cat Treats
- By Brand
Typically, each of these categories will have it’s own URL, with our product listed within each – something a bit like this:
See the issue?
Each of these URL’s shares the exact same content with the others – every page is the same. If someone searches for ‘Sapora Super’, how does Google know which page to rank first? The simple answer is = it doesn’t.
So – what can I do about it?
Depending on your shop / content management system, you’ve got a few ways to cure this. The simplest solution is to determine a main or ‘default’ category for your product, and make this the only URL that exists (or at least appears in Google). The most common way to do this involves the use of either 301 redirects or a rel=canonical tag.
For this example, we’ll say that Cat Food (www.kitscats.com/cat-food/rat-flavour-cat-food) is the main category.
301 redirects – automatically forwards both users and search engines from one URL to another, meaning that anyone landing on www.kitscats.com/cat-treats/rat-flavour-cat-food is automatically forwarded to www.kitscats.com/cat-food/rat-flavour-cat-food.
Rel=Canonical tags – tell search engines that the given page (e.g. www.kitscats.com/cat-treats/rat-flavour-cat-food) should be treated as though it were a copy of another URL (e.g. www.kitscats.com/cat-food/rat-flavour-cat-food).
This is done by dropping a small line of code into each page that you want to tell Google is a copy of another. In this case, we’d drop this line in to all pages that this product :
<link href=”http://www.kitscats.com/cat-food/rat-flavour-cat-food” rel=”canonical” />
Because both of these are ‘copies’ of our main page, www.kitscats.com/cat-food/rat-flavour-cat-food
Canonicalization can be a fairly difficult concept to explain, but it is in principal quite straightforward and a hugely powerful way of eradicating errors and duplicate content issues on your website.