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widgets.de, widgets.ch, widgets.at : Only one site listet in Google
Almost identical content will lead to exclusion
samhot




msg:118905
 9:36 am on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo,
we are facing a serious problem regarding three domains of our client in Germany, Austria and Switzerland:
Most of the content of the three sites is identical except for some products, prices, spelling exceptions etc. This is not in accordance with Google`s guidelines and hence the widgets.at and widgets.ch sites do not show up in the SERPs in these countries (i.e. "Pages from Switzerland").
Sending quite a few emails to Google did not help; they propose to block these sites via robots.txt from crawling these sites.
Due to internal (political) reasons these three sites cannot be combined under one url - so what can be done?
Surely not only our client is having this problem - any ideas?
Thank you all
samhot

 

zgb999




msg:118906
 5:24 pm on May 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are most pages identical? In other words: are there only some pages with country specific content?

samhot




msg:118907
 1:53 pm on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo zgb999,

... yes indeed: most pages are identical and only some pages do differ (specific models, special offers etc.).

IITian




msg:118908
 7:40 pm on May 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Why can't they change the contents of pages just enough to make them look non-identical to Google? Easiest might be to leave the original content as it is, and add some country-specific info on the pages. Just a very small change won't do - add enough to make them about 20-30% different.

On top of that if they can rewrite the original contents too, that could be very effective.

samhot




msg:118909
 8:31 am on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo IITian,

... thank you for your suggestions. Unfortunately there are a lot of pages and our client is not (yet)prepared to rewrite or reedit these.

Looking at your ideas from Google´s point of view these could be considered a violation as well: we would not have "identical" content but - more or less "duplicate" content.

A possible solution we´ve put forward to Google ("Thank you for your suggestion ...") was the proposal that the robots.txt could be amended with some information that a site should be indexed and listed in the SERPs only in the country that it was specified for.

Whether that´s possible or not - we don´t know. But certainly our client is not the only company that´s operating various websites in countries with the same language (i.e US vs Canada vs UK aso.).

Thank you for your attention.

samhot

hutcheson




msg:118910
 9:39 am on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'd tend to see this as a widgets.de design flaw rather than a google design flaw.

Assuming your client were willing to modify the page template (which seems not to be the case), I'd make sure that there was a standard item in the header that allowed the client to pick the right country (so widgets.de/catalog/item1.htm would have links to widgets.at/catalog/item1.htm etc.) Or even -- only have one page, and use PHP or other CGI to plug the company-specific stuff based on the URL (which would take a LOT less site maintenance in the long run.)

Yes, yes, I heard: your client believes that the three websites are static, unchangeable, monolithic and autocephalic as Stonehenge, and therefore didn't budget for a flexible website design...I'm just mentioning it here to perhaps warn some other benighted soul from taking the same shortsighted route.

samhot




msg:118911
 12:35 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo hutcheson,

thank you for your reply.

Regarding your remarks:

> Assuming your client were willing to modify the page template (which seems not to be the case), I'd make sure that there was a standard item in the header that allowed the client to pick the right country (so widgets.de/catalog/item1.htm would have links to widgets.at/catalog/item1.htm etc.) <
We´ve thought along that line too; won´t work because the page will not be listed in all SERPs of the 3 countries but only in 1 - if at all. Example: If widegts.at is banned for duplicate content, and a visitor from Austria wants to get results only from Austria, the site will no be listed.

BTW: About 90% of the pages are created via CMS (.php)with .html output to cater for other SEs as well. So changing a template would be no big matter.

> Or even -- only have one page, and use PHP or other CGI to plug the company-specific stuff based on the URL (which would take a LOT less site maintenance in the long run.) <
Same result as already mentioned: SERPs (at least Google) will show - at best - only 1 domain.

> Yes, yes, I heard: your client believes that the three websites are static, unchangeable, monolithic and autocephalic as Stonehenge, and therefore didn't budget for a flexible website design... <
Well no; it is a highly flexible content management system where all content as well as meta tags (title, description, alt text, keywords etc.) can be edited.

We do not wish that Google is displaying all widgets.xx domains - but we would like to be in the SERPs once in each country.

Hoping I could clarify this matter.

samhot

zgb999




msg:118912
 5:05 pm on May 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't think it is possible to be in all countries with one domain:
- Google search for Pages from Switzerland: needs a Swiss IP (hosting in Switzerland) or a .ch Domain
- Google search for Pages from Austria: needs an Austrian IP (hosting in Austria) or a .at Domain
- Google search for Pages from Germany: needs a German IP (hosting in Germany) or a .de Domain

Combinations won't work. I first thought if your keywords are in German then only few people from Germany will chose the option "Pages from Germany". So you could use a .ch domain as main domain and host the site in Austria. But I checked in Google and there are no .ch domains if you chose "Pages from Austria". Maybe nobody tried to combine it so far but I guess Google doesn't want you to be in both countries.

By the way I don't think Google should give you a penalty if you have a site for each country. It should consider the 90 % (or whatever) pages that are the same on those sites as duplicates but should keep the rest as valuable content.

samhot




msg:118913
 9:16 am on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks again zgb999,

> By the way I don't think Google should give you a penalty if you have a site for each country. It should consider the 90 % (or whatever) pages that are the same on those sites as duplicates but should keep the rest as valuable content. <

That´s exactly how we see it too. To us it is a big problem - but looking at it from the searchers point of view we have to state that Google is not delivering the results they deserve (our client is Europe´s largest manufacturer in its field with some unique and patented products).

As mentioned already we have contacted Google Germany but we do not expect them really looking into this matter. Is there any other possibility of arising Google´s attention?

Any ideas are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

samhot

olderscot




msg:118914
 1:07 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think you're missing the point about country specific searching. If someone limits their search to a specific country then they want to see results that are specific to that country. By duplicating the content in several different country urls then by definition you're saying quite clearly that the content is NOT country specific.

To me you're wasting your time if you think google or any other reputable search engine is going to accept duplicate content spread across several county specific urls.

This is pure spam and will quite rightly be filtered out by the search engines.

Mike

zgb999




msg:118915
 1:37 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't see this as spam.

We also have a client with localities in Switzerland, Germany and Austria (all German speaking countries). Most of the content of those sites is the same but there are other people to contact and some pages that have been adapted to the local market.

If somebody from Switzerland is looking for a site in Switzerland they shall see the .ch site as the company has offices in Switzerland.

If somebody from Germany is looking for a site in Germany they shall see the .de site as the company is present in Germany.

...

But in all countries they are targeting the same kind of clients so it does make sense to have most pages identical on the 3 different country sites.

The issue is not spam it is just an issue of using the same information for clients in different countries targeted by different offices in those countries.

IITian




msg:118916
 2:32 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

What about promoting a fourth site - say widgets.com and linking to .de, .ch and .at from there and using robots.txt in these three site to disallow all the common pages (or the entire sites)? This fourth site could be very simple site - even one page only. There will be some loss of PR, though.

samhot




msg:118917
 3:09 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo Mike,

... but if a company is having support as well as exhibition centers in these countries - which is the case with our client - this is clearly country specific content and certainly not spam. This is highly relevant information for searchers.

And just because the products are almost the same within all these countries (as hence most of the web pages) two out of the three domains are dropped from Google´s RPs! To us this policy does not make sense.

samhot

hutcheson




msg:118918
 3:19 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

>Most of the content of those sites is the same but there are other people to contact ...

This is really feeble, man! You think your Swiss customers are going to be irretrievably alienated because they happen to notice an Austrian address on your "contact us" page? Now if you had a French or Belgian office, I can maybe see concealing it from customers in other countries, but ... Switzerland?

>... and some pages that have been adapted to the local market.

Adapted how? (Again, I wonder whether one page could serve for all -- but as a programmer I have a very strong preference for using one page if at all possible.)

Perhaps the fundamental problem is that you are trying to use Google-specific country search in a way it wasn't intended to be used.

Now, from Google's point of view, that might be considered "abuse" and filtered out (just as it is now) OR that might be "a useful search feature which Google might want to consider supporting better." Perhaps you need to contact Google directly, to suggest they provide some more guidelines to webmasters creating country-targeted websites.

They might, for instance, (and I'm just pulling random ideas out of a hat) provide a way for content even on a .COM domain hosted in Tasmania to be able to claim "I'm Andorra-specific information; please index me ONLY in Andorra-specific searches." But in the long run, trying to _sneak_ duplicate content past the Google filters will, for legitimate businesses, be more trouble than it's worth. At least give them a chance to help.

samhot




msg:118919
 3:20 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo zgb999,

... exactly.

Thank you

samhot

PatrickDeese




msg:118920
 3:36 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

A possible work around might be to use subdomains, with the IPs hosted in the target country.

de.widgets.com
osterreich.widgets.com
ch.widgets.com

may not be the easiest way to do it - but might solve some of the problems.

samhot




msg:118921
 3:37 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo hutcheson,

> Perhaps the fundamental problem is that you are trying to use Google-specific country search in a way it wasn't intended to be used. <

So for what should this specific country search be good for if not for finding a company within that specific country?

> They might, for instance, (and I'm just pulling random ideas out of a hat) provide a way for content even on a .COM domain hosted in Tasmania to be able to claim "I'm Andorra-specific information; please index me ONLY in Andorra-specific searches." <

Exactly - that´s what I was suggesting for the robots.txt. A perfect solution.

samhot

samhot




msg:118922
 3:41 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo PatrickDeese,

... since all domains are feed via customized cms we cannot the sites in different countries. Thank you for the suggestion.

samhot

zgb999




msg:118923
 6:24 pm on May 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

hutcheson
"You think your Swiss customers are going to be irretrievably alienated because they happen to notice an Austrian address on your "contact us" page? "

That is not the point. If people are using the option "pages from Switzerland" they already told that they are looking for a local company. So they get to that .ch site and are expecting a Swiss adress. They don't care about the other adresses. You cannot claim to think of the user first and in such a case just because of Google not liking duplicate content offer the user information they are not looking for.

So in the case of our client they get a nice picture of the people they will be dealing with in that country with their name, phone number... Nobody in Austria is interested in this information. They have other people there. But nevertheless if somebody clicks on "Contact" or "About us" they want to know about the people they will be dealing with.

I don't care if it is easier to maintain a page that is the same for all countries. I think of customers first. If you have some price information on a page you sureley could give the price in different currencies. But if you selected "Pages from countryX" you would expect to get the price in the local currency.

So if there is a legitimate company in a country with a website that is sharing marketing material with other legitimate companies in other countries of the same language then we will always have that kind of duplicate content.

By the way having a local domain also helps in getting into the local directories. If you have an entry in the local chamber of commerce or any directory with information about the local market then you better have a .ch (or whatever) domain.

PatrickDeese
"A possible work around might be to use subdomains, with the IPs hosted in the target country."
This might work though you will still need widget.de, widget.ch and widget.at as you probably will not use at.widget.com in your print advertising as people are expecting to see widget.at and if you use something like at.widget.com they are less likely to remember it.

Anyhow, how will the subdomains solve the problem with the duplicate content?

olderscot




msg:118924
 11:23 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

I know it's tough, but if you create duplicate websites to appear in SERPS you wouldn't otherwise appear in then you are going to be filtered as spam.

In this case you're doing it to be country specific, but the objective and result is the same as if you did it to target different customer segments.

And this is how it has to be done. Otherwise we'd all have hundreds of duplicate sites targeting different countries (just change the currency and shipping information), different customer segments (industrial widgets, retail widgets, widgets for cars, widgets for boats, widgets for women, premium widgets, budget widgets) different customer needs (widgets by courier, widgets by credit card, Special offer widgets) etc, etc. All of these would be customer biased with a unique segment focus but if the content is the same then the search engines will filter them as spam.

Mike

stever




msg:118925
 12:01 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

samhot and others

Are you saying that none of your sites are turning up under a search on Google.at with the filter "pages from Austria"? Or are you saying that only the Austrian one is? Or is it that the .de one is?

And are you complaining that Google does not show the .at domain for the relevant Google when the filter is relaxed (e.g. search on google.at for "the web" or "pages in German")?

I'm not sure at all whether you are talking about a duplicate content problem here or a site network problem.

I agree with you that Google should show the proper country on the country-restricted search, but it is probably going to show only one page from one of the sites on a less restrictive search on any of the country Googles.

And anyway it is your (or rather your sites') responsibility to provide adequate company-wide navigation rather than Google's, surely?

samhot




msg:118926
 12:54 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo stever,

> Are you saying that none of your sites are turning up under a search on Google.at with the filter "pages from Austria"? Or are you saying that only the Austrian one is? Or is it that the .de one is? <

That´s the problem: "Pages from Austria" will show neither of all domains: not .at, not.ch, not .de.

> And are you complaining that Google does not show the .at domain for the relevant Google when the filter is relaxed (e.g. search on google.at for "the web" or "pages in German")? <

The .at and .ch domains are not listed in any search RP - Google has banned them. The .de domain is well listet for the main keyword (#3 for pages in German, #14 international - keyword in English is the same as in German).

> I'm not sure at all whether you are talking about a duplicate content problem here or a site network problem. <

We are certainly talking about a duplicate content problem here. We could identify visitors from Austria when visiting the .de domain and display the appropriate content - still: Google would not list the .de domain when searching for pages from Austria.

Coming back to my original idea: If Google would accept a tag - or robots.txt - that says something like "To be listed in pages from Austria only" this problem could be solved. That way Austrians would find the .at domain when searching for pages from Austria and when they look for Pages in German the .de domain would be listed.

Now I have no idea whether this could easily integrated into Googles algorithm - but it would be worth a try.

samhot

stever




msg:118927
 2:19 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting. It would appear then that sites are being filtered out at a general level and not for specific queries (else the .at filter would let them back in again, or at least let certain country-specific pages on an .at domain appear).

For what it's worth, I agree that this would be a good improvement for Google to make and that this has implications for sites promoting themselves in various countries and languages.

zgb999




msg:118928
 2:32 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

samhot

How many backlinks has the .at and the .ch version?

samhot




msg:118929
 2:53 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo zgb999,

backlinks to

.de = 14
.at = 0
.ch = 6

maybe of interest too: pagerank

.de = 5
.at = 3
.ch = 3

samhot

zgb999




msg:118930
 9:17 am on May 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

If the .ch and .at are legitimate sites for that country you should be able to get a DMOZ entry. If the client is willing to spend money register those sites in yahoo.de or pay some higher (on topic) PR site to link to those sites.

This should help. Please report back if you succeeded in getting those sites into the local Google.

samhot




msg:118931
 9:51 am on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo zgb999,

sorry for being a bit late in replying - yesterday we had a holiday. Regarding your suggestions:

Guidelines of dmoz:
- Do not submit mirror sites. Mirror sites are sites that contain identical content, but have altogether different URLs.

- Do not submit URLs that contain only the same or similar content as other sites you may have listed in the directory. Sites with overlapping and repetitive content are not helpful to users of the directory. Multiple submissions of the same or related sites may result in the exclusion and/or deletion of those and all affiliated sites.

If we´d try to get into dmoz my fear is that we will be rejected on these grounds. So I´d much rather wait until the problem has been resolved.

Yahoo: We are listet with our keywords with the .de domain - Yahoo doesn´t differentiate between Austria, Switzerland and Germany - it´s always "deutsch".

Inbound links: Somehow I doubt this will help.

samhot

zgb999




msg:118932
 10:43 am on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

If the sites are legitimate for those countries you will get an entry in DMOZ (at least in a regional category). If I understood you right then your sites are not mirror sites.

It doesn't make sense to have all sites listed in the same category. One is enough. But in the regional categories I cannot see why they should not be listed. Be aware that a human beeing might look at all 3 country sites but if they see that all 3 are legitimate (because you have offices in all 3 countries...) this should not be a problem. Microsoft has also a lot of similar content on their country sites (most is the same) but they are listed because it makes sense to have them listed.

Yahoo.de has own categories for companies in Switzerland and Austria too. My whole point was if you can convince the large directories that you have 3 different country specific sites then this should help you convincing Google. You can also look for specific Austrian and Swiss directories.

samhot




msg:118933
 12:23 pm on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hallo zgb999,

... thanks, sounds like good advice - we´ve entered the .at and .ch domains for Austria and Switzerland just now.

Now it´s wait and see - will keep you informed once something has happened.

samhot

zgb999




msg:118934
 1:26 pm on May 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good luck! (Especially Dmoz not taking too long to add your sites)

This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36 ( [1] 2 > >
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