This short post is part of my "Grains of SEO Gold" series covering basic SEO topics and how to apply them.
Today's SEO Topic: Meta Robots Tag
During a recent website review
, I illustrated how duplicate content could be created on your website when using the services from an agency that specializes in creating websites for retail jewelry stores.
Specialty marketing agencies exist in every vertical market (ones to do with goods and services specific to an industry). It's a wise business model for an agency to focus their efforts in a single market so they can become specialists. That's how I got involved in the jewelry industry in 2003, and I've been focused in it ever since.
The benefit of a specialty agency is that you can use the same techniques for multiple customers as long as the customers are not in nearby geographic markets. Otherwise, it's unethical to sell the same services to two jewelers who would then be competing with one another.
Someone is bound to lose, and both customers will complain once they figure out what the agency is doing.
Geographic markets are one thing, but the internet is something entirely different. Every website has the potential to be a competitor with every other website. Google will rank any website with the best search engine optimization, the best content, and the best usability above someone else selling the same products... and it really doesn't matter where those businesses are geographically located.
Google doesn't like it when more than 1 website has exactly the same information on it. This is called duplicate content and they've engineered ways to filter websites out of the search results when duplicate content is detected.
What many retail jewelers don't realize is that the specialty agencies freely distribute the exact same information to every one of their jewelry customers. This identical information includes product photos, product descriptions, and all the jewelry education pages like the 4Cs of Diamonds.
It's likely that Google will view this identical information as duplicate content stolen from another website and they will penalize your website ranking in the search results.
You might think that the simple solution is to delete this educational content from your website, but that isn't helpful for your customers. Truthfully, your customers do want to see those educational jewelry pages, but they probably won't be searching Google for it to begin with.
Instead of deleting the pages, you could tell Google not to read them or to include them as part of your ranking factors. This is done by including the Meta Robots tag in the header of those educational pages.
Many content management systems will include this version of the Robots tag by default:
<meta name="robots" content="All" />
That Robots tag tells Google that they are allowed to read the entire page and follow all the hyperlinks on that page.
This is another alternative version of the "All" directive:
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow" />
But when it comes time to request that Google ignore a page you would want to use this version of the directive:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow" />
The "noindex" is the magic key. That directive tells Google to ignore the content on the page. You won't rank for it, and you won't get penalized for duplicate content either.
Those of you using templates systems from one of the jewelry website agencies should follow these directions and change all your education pages so Google doesn't eventually penalize you for duplicate content. In fact, it's quite likely that the Panda filter has already penalized you, in which case you will see a positive turn in your ranking sometime in the future after the next Panda update.