March 23rd, 2007 by Alan Rabinowitz
For years we told users to design sites for their visitors and not the search engines. Today we actually state the opposite. Due to Google’s overly obsessive duplicate content filter and its parameters for spam being so close to natural content and template usage, we now believe it is imperative for sites that want to have top search engine rankings, to maintain up-to-date page and navigation structure so they do not fall into Google’s ever-growing supplemental index.
If you do not design and structure your sites for Google, Google will erase you. Yahoo and MSN are much friendlier to content repeated in a template while Google seems to fumble and cause webmasters to re-write templates and pages that have repeated content.
I am going to go against the masses here as I am tired of the amount of time I have had to spend fixing content on high quality sites because of some overly-aggressive filters. Webmasters MUST be cautious when developing websites specifically the use of content, navigation and structure.
Template heavy designers who use sidebars with content and use a template sub-navigation, or section navigation in the body of a site are at great risk. What we are discussing here is sites that have pages that do not rank or fall into the supplemental index because they duplicate content in a template or in their navigation.
For instance, I am going to point out errors in page development on our own site, Not many companies would do this, but this is such an obvious example, so I want to point it out to help our readers. Our SEO Tools main page which uses a text heavy section navigation on the page and on every tool page, just went into the supplemental index of Google, while the tools pages still rank. The page went supplemental due to the repetition of the section navigation using content and links to give you an idea of what the tools are about, and link you to them. So We must now address this and add more information about SEO Tools to this page to get it back into the good graces of Google.
So why would a site developed by SEOs have a page go supplemental? It does not matter how experienced you are, if you design for users, sometimes it trips a Google filter as your design flow may be used by sites that Google does not like or sites that tend to be spammy scraper sites.
Naturally, Google’s defense mechanism is to prevent overuse of content repetition to try and help webmasters develop better pages. Sometimes this hurts sites that use certain types of navigational structure, and is simply the fault of people gaming the system and causing Google to be more strategic about how it removes duplicate content.
This next part is for one of our readers that asked me about the supplemental index a few weeks ago…
Another issue is websites using what is termed as “Madlib Spam”. Madlib spam is caused by sites that use the same content on numerous pages and then replace a keyword or two in the content but most of the content is exactly the same. Usually used on dynamic city portals or city or manufacturer sections of sites. Sometimes we find this is used as “Page Spam” to try and gain the appearance of having a larger website with many pages.
This effect is simple to fix, it requires you re-visit your content and adjust how you navigate through your site and the addition of different content or more informational content. Adding new content about SEO Tools is what we are doing, so many of you who read this will not see the original version.
So I created a screenshot (below) of what Google considered duplicate on our site. It was on every page of the SEO Tools page and only in that section of 7 pages. The issue we have had was the content and the fact that we had the “Link To Tools” as text combined with a content-based sub navigation, which caused the appearance of duplicate content rather than realizing that the page had navigation.
Once we add more content we simply wait for Google to re-spider the site and we should get removed from the supplemental index in a short time period.
In summary, how you structure a website and how you use content and navigation are imperative to the long-term success of your campaign. We are also entering an age where we really have to design and develop sites for the Search Engines and if we can, our visitors.
[tags]duplicate content, design, website architecture, seo image, seoimage, Google, supplemental, supplemental index[/tags]