E-commerce stores, duplicate content, and Canonical URLs

At times we see ProductCart users send us messages or post on the ProductCart forms about concerns with duplicate content. In a nutshell, they are worried that having two links to the same page would damage their search engine rankings due to some sort of “duplicate content penalty”.

Let’s clarify this topic – as much as we can. This actually applies not just to ProductCart, but to any other e-commerce store (or any Web site, for that matter).

Duplicate Content
Google has made it pretty clear that unless you’re doing something shady, there is pretty much nothing to worry about (see this forum posting by our staff). Done with this one. Hey, that was quick!

Canonical URLs
Pretty fancy name, but simple concept. You tell the world what the preferred URL of a given page is. That way, you make it even more clear to any search engine that you don’t want to trick anyone. If there are other URLs that point to the same page, that’s fine. You made it clear what the preferred one is ( = the one that should be indexed).

Conclusion
Whenever you can help search engines more effectively index your Web site (e.g. generating a sitemap), it’s a good idea to do so. In this case, regardless of whether or not a “duplicate content penalty” exists (as mentioned above, in most cases it does not), it is a good idea to add a Canonical URL to your store pages.

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