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So 2 Sites: Same design, layout and navigation
Duplicate title tags on both sites across the board, except the branding is different.
Example: Blue Widgets ¦ BuyWidgetsOnline.com
Example: Blue Widgets ¦ BuyWidgetsToday.com
The BuyWidgetsOnline.com homepage was #1 for "blue widgets" prior to replicating the SEO onto BuyWidgetsToday.com.
After replicating the previous SEO efforts onto the other site, BuyWidgetsOnline.com is now located on the 3rd page with the sitemap (BuyWidgetsOnline.com/sitemap) ranking, and BuyWidgetsToday.com is on the first page for the phrase "blue widgets".
I'm thinking a penalty of some kind. Any insight is very much appreciated. Thanks!
To rank two sites dependently, they need to be different enough not to be consider overly similar and thus subject to duplicate filtering.
Seriously, honestly why? When you find the answer to that question, which is probably (my best guess) to occupy the top two spots in the results and generate more traffic, the reason one (or both) sites probably don't rank as well as the one used to should be obvious... Because it's spam. Pure, blatant, unadulterated spam...
From a more technical POV Google uses a heuristic, not an algorithm... The difference is an algorithm looks for 2+2=4 and if it generates 10 results, will show the result '4' ten times. A heuristic looks for multiple possible answers, so it might generate the results: 4, 3, 5, 6, 2, 1, 7 and so on, with the difference in order between 3 and 5 being the clicks each result receives by visitors. If 3 is clicked more often than 5 within a result set then even though both are only one number off from 'correct' 3 will rank in the second position, and 5 in the third, because 3 is what more people are looking for...