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On top of that if they can rewrite the original contents too, that could be very effective.
... 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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
... 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.
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.
> 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.
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.
"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?
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.
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?
> 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.
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.
This should help. Please report back if you succeeded in getting those sites into the local Google.
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.
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.