Last week, while analyzing a new website for a jeweler, we came across a duplicate content situation that we'd like to share with you.
Large websites are tricky to manage and organize. Customers will find your website more user-friendly when you split your content and product catalog into useful subsets of pages rather than creating a single long list of links. In fact, a study published in The Net Effect magazine in 2009 revealed that the average person only sees the first 2 and the last 2 links in any link list.
The average person looking at a list of 4 links will be able to read all 4 without problem. Now give that same average person a list of 5 or 6 links to read and the human brain switches into what we will call "scan mode" and they uncontrollably skip the 3rd and 4th links.
Stuff like this you only learn if you've studied your website a lot, or if you pay a usability expert a lot of money for website design help. Implementing a website to account for this "scan mode" requires some thinking, and even more work to do it correctly. Let's look deeper.
Deciding to cluster your pages or product into groups means you need to create a "parent link" or a "parent page" in your navigation. When the user clicks on that parent you need to create an interactive signal that they are digging deeper.
Here are 3 interactive signals that tell a user they clicked on a "parent" link or page:
1. Expand the subset of links in the navigation.
2. Jump to the first sub page and expand the subset of links in the navigation.
3. Jump to the parent page and show blurbs for each sub page; also expand the subset of links in the navigation.
Each of these 3 methods will clearly show the user they've found more, and can go deeper.
Now that we've gotten this "deep" in our discussion we can finally tell you about the duplicate content issue we saw the other day. It comes from those "blurbs" in #3.
Those blurbs are used to introduce the subpages, perhaps even entice the user to click deeper. The blurb can be something unique that explains the page, or you can copy the first paragraph from the subpage and include a "... more" button or link at the end.
The potential for duplicate content occurs when you copy the first paragraph from the subpage. This technique is valid and used widely on the internet. Copying the first paragraph from the subpage creates duplicate content, so to avoid this you must use this code in the programming code for the parent page:
<meta name="robots" content="follow, noindex" />
The "follow, noindex" command tells the search engines that information on that page should not be read, but please follow all the links to the next subpages below. When the search engine reads the subpage they will find the same paragraph of text and index it.
Once you build yourself a large e-commerce site, you will need to create those parents with blurbs. Trust us, it's unavoidable; BlueNile, JamesAllen, Jared, Gordon's, and countless others use this clustering navigation technique.