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Customized 'home pages' by territory -- duplicate content issue?



9:52 pm on Sep 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It has been proposed that we modify our website home page in a certain way, which has both marketing and SEO ramifications. I am concerned that this method runs afoul of general SEO guidelines. Here is our situation:

We have a site that sells a service nation-wide, but some of the users have natural "territorial" characteristics. We are intending on selling a license to resell our service separately in each territory. In the first conceptualization, we are using the 50 US states.

Accordingly we have the ability for the user to navigate to www.example.com/state, where "state" is a US State.

It is natural for our users to have a local orientation, and our sales manager believes this gives him a big advantage in being able to sell the service that is thus "localized." Whether this is true remains to be seen, but nevertheless it is a marketing concept completely apart from SEO considerations and could justify the project simply by the increase in our sales.

At present, when the user enters a designated valid state as part of the URL, there is a change in the body of the page to the title. Namely the "in the body" title becomes "State Oursite" rather than the generic "Oursite".

While we have also contemplated adding a lot more specific content relevant to the specific territory, at present the difference between the pages is extremely small being only a few characters difference (the name of the territory). The rest of the site is identical, so that it appears to be an identical sub-domain website, with only a few characters difference in the whole site.

My concern is that adding a lot of such territorial sub-domains (actually implemented via URL rewriting) could be considered spamming by the search engines.

In particular I am quite concerned because of the recent suggestion that rather than simply 50 states, we extend this concept to "every city and town" in the country, which takes it probably 3 orders of magnitude further -- for example, now there would be 50,000 virtual sub-domains.

Then down the road, each separate territory could be individualized on the home page, and perhaps even elsewhere in the site. But the bulk of the site visible to the spider would be identical.

Am I correct in viewing this as something that would be a major negative with regard to the search engines and to be avoided at all costs?

[edited by: tedster at 9:57 pm (utc) on Sep. 11, 2009]
[edit reason] switch to "example.com" [/edit]


10:01 pm on Sep 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It certainly "could be" a problem. You want to make sure that each unique URL has a good bit of unique content that is specific just to that URL. Otherwise you run the risk of taking on a spammer profile, and that would be even worse than just banging into duplicate content filtering.

One thing I'd add - you posted that you want the user to "navigate" to these pages - that's good. Whatever you do, make sure you keep a solid true Home Page available at the domain root.


2:13 pm on Sep 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the input.

I see there are a lot of threads on this and related topics. However, is there some "comprehensive, authoritative" article somewhere?


4:25 pm on Sep 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Not that I'm aware of. This is one of those "hard knocks" areas and only individual experiences are available to learn from. With the rise of Local Search in the past few years, a lot of sites were developed to "blanket" the territory.

The best approach I can think of is to get outside your own marketing view and try to think like a search engineer. What kind of results would you want to serve to your end users and what would you want to avoid. With that picture in mind, create a resource that any search engine would happily show their users.


8:04 pm on Sep 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

My concern is that adding a lot of such territorial sub-domains (actually implemented via URL rewriting) could be considered spamming by the search engines.

This is the only part I would be concerned with. Not sure if your willing to do a real sub-domain or not and then allow for the city area search.

We are now in the process of doing just want your looking into only difference is we are doing a real sub-domain for each state then using this to drill down to cities that are on the sub-domaine home page.

We have in the past used the country map to select the state then select the city then select the advertiser. This places the advertisers local link 4 clicks deep and is really hard to get them spidered. This new way the adversiser is really on the sub-domain home page as we have the ability to add banners on the right and left with links to the advertisers profile page in each sub-domain name.

Then use the main domain country map to link to each sub-domain name. Now each advertiser is only 1 click from home page.

Our content per sub-domain name is going to be for that state only as well as city content per advertiser.

I myself feel it is aa good move done correctly will bring in the targeted local traffic for the advertiser and fits pretty good with the new google update that is good for SEO purposes.


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