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800 similar widgets, the canonical tag, and Panda?


Martin Ice Web

6:33 am on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

As many of you we are driving an ecom site that was badly hit on Aprilī12 and then with every next panda update.

In regard of users action and satisfaction I did restructure my site ( one memeber of WebmasterWorld told me to it ).
-I added content
-deleted links
-went through spelling
-reduced keyword density

But nothing helped, but on August 12 panda update we got again something on our nose.

The only thing I was not dare to do, is that I put the canonical tag on similar widgets.
Unfortunatelly googles help sites do not offer explicit details on how/best way to use it.
I think many webmaster will have the same problem, therefore I ask for our opinion.

We have many widgets, some of them are very similar like:

Manufacturer - Typ - color - lenght ( about 800x times )

The typ/manufacture widgets itself are not similar, but if I put this in the title tag, it would be very long and it would look like keyword stuffing.

I probably think google sees this as a content farm. I didnīt do it, because Matt Cutts said DC on same domain wouldnīt hurt your rankings, but I think that is not true.

Now, where is the best target to link to with the canonical tag.

Should all the widgets link with the canonical tag to a list with all the widgets with the same color, Manufacturer and Typ are in?
Or should the canonical tag link to one widget I choose myself?

As I understand is the canonical tag only a hint for google to choose a best site but they decide from query to query if they show a site that has the canonical tag, too.

Since Aprilī12 panada update a very similar site to mine ranks for nearly every query to that widget. They have about 400x similar widgets and have no canonical tag and the title is constructed similar to my title. This site has multiple positions in serps and was prepanda not to be found in serps.


3:58 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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

I'm not convinced that e-commerce sites even CAN be a "content farm". They can, however, be a kind of database spam. However, the situation you describe doesn't sound that way to me. In fact, if "manufacturer" and "type" are different for the different URLs, then each product is clearly different and I don't see how a canonical link makes any sense. Within a given manufacturer and type, you might consider a canonical link for minor product variations like color.


4:01 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

The canonical tag is typically used in this case to collapse query strings that are the different pages in Google's eyes, but are the same page in reality.

So, for example you might have the following URLs:



Your canonical tag in this case is <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/widgets.php?manufacturer=widgetinc&type=technowizit" />

and it'll be different for each different manufacturer and type you have.

Martin Ice Web

6:34 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Tedster, I mean this point. the variations of colors. WMT shows me a significant growth in similar pages. I think itīs the variations of color an lenght for the same manufacture + Typ combination. So google could see this as Spam? Would a canonical tag help? Because it is only a suggestion for google to choose the non canonical page for the serps. But will I shoot myself in the foot, because I will reduce my pages in index?

Dymero, that is not true. The the help pages from google has a example with shoes and different colors. They say to make the page with the most liked color to the canonical page.

But I donīt have a most like lenght / color. So i will reduce my chance for users to find different colors or lenght? But to have so many different typs with almost same description is not good for rankings? i guess.


7:19 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Tedster, I mean this point. the variations of colors.

Absolutely. This could be one of your problems, assuming the text remains largely the same from one color page to the next.

I seem to have escaped Panda with this last refresh, and one of the majors things I did was condense these types of pages. I didn't canonical them, though -- instead, I used Zappos as inspiration and reworked the way that the pages work. Now, all colors are accessible through a single URL, and I force users to select their color as part of item selection process on the product page.

Then I 301 redirected all 'color pages' to the root page. I can't promise results, but it seems to have worked for me.


8:16 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

It's not spam - but it's probably considered duplicate content. We've always had separate pages for different color and different size items, and we're trying to combat this problem (plus make it easier for users ordering multiple colors) by combining them all on a single page, so they can order 5 Red, 10 Blue, and so on. Which (I hope) will also mitigate the search engine issues. But it did take a lot of reorganizing and we're only about 25% done with it so far.

Martin Ice Web

6:35 am on Aug 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

@Sand, thanx for your replay. I think thatīs my main problem. Because we do have numerus widgets-typs that do have this problem.
I took a look a Zappo. Did you rework your site with a drop box to chose the items? I every meant that this would keep users of buying because of the circumstantial way to order.
Maybe you could sticky mail me your site? So a can have a look at it?

@netmeg, for me it is now the way to find the best way to present the users our widgets. Order by color or lenght or both?
The next is the price information, how to present this in a fast way, so the user has all infomrmation with one look? We also do have a very complicated ecom way in germany.


6:11 pm on Aug 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Martin, the Zappos-style drop down that Sand mentioned is what I was envisioning when I wrote the reply. You can choose to display the most popular color and length by default, but otherwise keep the product's page collapsed into one URL.

Martin Ice Web

6:19 am on Aug 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

@Dymero, okay, i did catch it another way. Sorry.

@Sand, whyour redirected 301 all old pages to the new summary page? Is that working? Is it okay for google to redirect 10 or 20 pages to a single new one?

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