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We don't really intend for spiders to find obscure pages like product page 17- should we put a no follow tag on? or are they viewed as one page, even with differet parameters set?
All advise is appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
If the same text is found on product page one, and two, and three, is it considered duplicate content
By definition: yes!
However it's going to depend on how similar the pages are as to whether this presents a problem, and the scale of duplication and strength of the site will determine how much impact on performance there could be (if any).
It's quite tricky if your pages are for (as an example) widgets with very minor differences between them. The goal is for every accessible URL to contain substantially unique content. It might help to start with that as an aim, and then see how you can try to reach that with your current site.
An example would be if you had a new product page for widgets of every colour (with colour being the only difference between each). It's going to be very tricky to make a substantially unique and useful page about every colour (although it's possible if you have a good copywriter). It might be better to have one page about the widget, that accounts for each colour.
We don't really intend for spiders to find obscure pages like product page 17- should we put a no follow tag on
Note that in many cases 'obscure' content is actually quite useful, since it can target desirable niche visitors. However if you genuinely don't want the pages indexed, you can use robots exclusion (nofollow is a mechanism to exclude links, not content).
If you change copy on the similar widget detail pages that have been around for several years, is it possible to reverse the dup content problem in the eyes of G and improve ranking
In most cases duplicate content doesn't create a problem: it merely represents a missed opportunity, since you have a lot of pages with no prospect of appearing in search results, reducing the possibilities to attract visitors. So in that sense, it's what I would call a "passively negative" effect rather than an "actively negative" one.
If you improve a page, all that's needed is for Googlebot to respider the page, and for a favourable recalculation of the page to occur - it can then start to attract referrals. If there are no or very few links to a page, it's going to get spidered infrequently, and once it is respidered, is less likely to be favourably recalculated. This determines ho long it takes, and what the impact is.
I believe this would apply to most duplicate/substantially similar pages, although I'm sure there are some with red flags that will make it more difficult to recover!
To give an example, if I was looking for a tin of paint, the colour is obviously hugely significant - people may well be actively searching for different colours, and they may expect to see different pages for different colours. If I was just looking for a tin, the colour would be largely insignificant, even if you offered a choice of colours: lots of unique pages would be unlikely to be worth the effort.
It sounds in the above life you'd be better off with one product page, that offered all the variations. Perhaps excepting characteristics that change something essential about the product.
Otherwise, you could potentially end up with 17 weak product pages, instead of one strong one.
Of course, web analytics could help you with your decision - do all these variations attract traffic or encourage purchases? If not, then it's worth reconsidering why you have them.