Since the last time I mentioned website duplicate content issues Google has made a few significant changes to the way they figure this out. Today I'll explain how their changes are making your life a little easier as a website owner.
The issue I explained in March 2013 was the duplicate content that is created when you have a website that allows visitors to see the same content when viewing the www and non-www versions of the site.
That is to say that you don't really need to worry about duplicate content from this situation any more:
Google's position on duplicate content is now that they won't penalize you if you honestly made a mistake with how you have your website set up. The www and non-www versions of your website are one of those mistakes.
Google's primary concern about duplicate content is simply to make sure search results have a good variety of options. Unlike years ago when a single website could have multiple, or indented result listings on page 1 of results, Google now seems to want 10 unique search results on the first page of their SERPs.
When it comes to offline advertising, I've made a lot of recommendations to use alternative domain names that would redirect people to your primary website. All of these recommendations are based around the idea that you would implement a direct domain name redirect to your primary website.
If your primary domain name is perosijewelers.com, you could also have the domain name totowajewelrystores.com as a secondary domain. When someone goes to totowajewelrystores.com, their web browsers would automatically redirect them to the perosijewelers.com site instead.
The above example will prevent Google from thinking you have 2 different websites with the same content, and this is the correct way to configure your website properties.
However, if you misconfigure your domain names, you could easily end up with 2 identical looking websites. This really is duplicate content, but Google now seems to hint that they will still be able to figure out which of those 2 domain names are the best for search results.
Google continues to make recommendations to clean up the way you manage your domain names, and content. Here's their main help page about duplicate content:
In their list of bullet points on that page, they have a caution about syndicating your content. Many blog writers will write a single blog and sell it to multiple websites. There are several jewelry industry bloggers that do this, and I've seen blogs shared on Facebook across multiple accounts, and on multiple jewelry websites. This is a bad idea because this is actually duplicate content. Google will attempt to figure out who the original owner of the content is and will exclude all other websites from the search results.
Consider the case of the multiple domain owner with a badly misconfigured website. Once upon a time I knew a jeweler with 15 different permutations of their domain name. Each domain had a slightly different use of their store name, their town name, and even a few keywords.
All 15 domain names pointed to their website, and it didn't matter which on you typed in because they always got to the same. They didn't use a redirect, and from Google's point of view, they had 30 different websites.
Yes, when you consider this scenario:
It's hard to believe that Google would not view this as an attempt to spam their index, and they would most likely penalize all the domain name variations until you set up 301 redirects to solve the problem.
However, Google also provides some other directions to on how to tell them which web pages are duplicates of others. Using the directions they provide, you can tell them which of your websites, and web pages, are canonical versions of others. Those directions are here:
The canonicalization feature allows you to include a hidden link at the top of every web page which tells Google where the "real" version of that page can be found. I put the word "real" in quotes because you only have 1 website, but in the example above there are 30 different domain names for every page. Therefore, the canonical link will list the single primary domain.
If used correctly, canonicalization would prevent Google from thinking you are spamming them.
Continuing with this idea of 30 domain names, you should realize that Google is wasting their time to read and ignore 29 variations of the website. This is not just a waste of time; it's a waste of electricity, storage space, and CPU processing time. All of those factors equate to actual lost money.
My view is that, if you waste Google's money, they will penalize you in one way or another.
As I said, I recommend using multiple domain names as part of your marketing, but you need to manage them on your own using 301 redirects without letting Google do it for you.