The One Thing You Should Do Right Now to Help Your SEO

January 26th, 2012 by Jeanne Gaudet Lobman

1. Open your browser. www. vs.

2. Type in www.[yourdomain].com. After it loads, does the web address stay on www.[yourdomain].com?

3. Then, type in [yourdomain].com. After it loads, does the web address “resolve” to the same address as it did when you completed step 2?

If not, your site technically has two versions of itself, therefore leaving search engines to believe that your entire site consists of duplicate content. This problem is actually very common, but fixing it is the one thing you should do right now to help your SEO.

In the example above, the domains AND both exist, meaning there are two copies of every page on the site, which could be detrimental to rankings in search engines. Luckily, there is a pretty easy fix for this problem. But first, let’s discuss why duplicate content is bad for Search Engine Optimization.

What is Duplicate Content?

Image courtesy of

Google defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” Duplicate content is often considered one of the top negative SEO ranking factors. Duplicate content to search engines is like identical triplets to a drunk frat guy: how do they know which version is the right one to choose? According to SEOMoz, three of the biggest issues with duplicate content include:

  1. Search engines don’t know which version(s) to include/exclude from their indices
  2. Search engines don’t know whether to direct the link metrics (trust, authority, anchor text, link juice, etc.) to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions
  3. Search engines don’t know which version(s) to rank for query results

What this means is that search engines want to show the most relevant content to their searchers, but if you have duplicate content existing across URLs, the search engines get confused. Link metrics and page authority get split between the URLs, diminishing the value of all of your SEO efforts.

Ways to Check for Duplicate Content

Duplicate Content ToolBesides typing your domain in your browser, Virante has a duplicate content tool that checks whether your domain has duplicate content. Just submit your domain, and the tool will do a WWW/NonWWW Header Check, Google Cache Check, Similarity Check, Default Page Check, 404 Check, and a PageRank Dispersion Check. As in the previous example, failed the WWW/NonWWW Header Check, and because of this main problem, they also failed the Google Cache Check, Similarity Check, and Default Page Check.

How to Fix These Issues

So now that you’ve realized that you have a problem, how do you fix if? For starters, you can log in to your Google webmaster tools account and designate your preferred domain. This lets Google know which version of your site to provide in the search engine results. Next, you (or in my case, someone else with actual programming knowledge) should set up a permanent 301 redirect in the .htaccess file to let other search engines know which domain is the preferred one.

Once this problem is resolved, you will want to make sure that you are consistently using the preferred domain for all of your link building endeavors.

Do you know if your domain has duplicate content? Find out now!