You may have heard of Google’s duplicate content penalty which condemns certain web pages to languish in supplemental index purgatory. In fact, some of your blog’s pages may be there now and affecting your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When googlebot crawls a site’s pages and finds two or more that have significantly similar content, those duplicate pages may be relegated to the supplemental index. This doesn’t mean your site is banned, it means that your supplemental page won’t show up in the SERPs unless there aren’t enough results for the search query.
Since the news of duplicate content penalties has been spreading, it’s finally reached the blogging world and many are scrambling to find a solution for the way a WordPress blog displays its content. If you’re currently running a WordPress blog, then there’s no reason for you to fear; three quick and simple changes can help you to avoid the duplicate content penalty.
Optimize Your Archive and Category Pages
The archive and category pages are where a majority of the duplicate content problems arise. This happens because some themes publish the entire post’s content which gives off the illusion that a post was published in more than one place, although it truly wasn’t. To quickly get around this problem, you’ll need to turn those full posts into partial summaries.
Time for action: Open your theme’s archive.php file (and category.php, if it exists) using a plain text or HTML editor. A free one can be downloaded from http://www.pspad.com/. When you have the files open, change “the_content()” to “the_excerpt()”, save the changes, and upload the updated file to your blog.
Your Homepage Needs Attention, Too
The homepage of a blog usually suffers from the same problem as the archive and category pages, especially as you continue through the various pages of older entries. Although you could just as easily convert the full content into excerpts as you did for the archive pages, it’s not the ideal solution. Your homepage relies on the index file as do other sections of the blog. Altering this file may make sweeping, and undesirable, changes across the blog.
Luckily there is a solution, without getting into advanced template editing techniques. You can truncate your posts by using the “more” tag; however, if you already have a number of posts, then it may be better to use a plugin which will automatically truncate the post for you after a paragraph or two.
Time for action: Download the free Evermore WordPress plugin from http://www.optiniche.com/go/evermore and install it on your blog. After activating it, verify that it’s working as intended and that your homepage posts are shortened to one or two paragraphs with a link to continue reading.
Internal Link Structure Matters
Now that you’ve gone through the steps of removing potentially duplicate content, it’s time to tell the search engines where to find the right pages to index. This is where a strong internal link structure comes into play. The goal is to make sure that the permalink can be found from your homepage, the archive and category pages using relevant anchor text.
On your homepage, archives, and category pages, make sure that your post title is linked to the permalink page. Many themes will already do this, but double check. Also, avoid using terms like “permalink” or “post link” when linking to the individual posts.
Another way to boost your internal link structure is with a human readable sitemap page. The sitemap page should contain a link to each of your individual blog entries using the entry title as the anchor text. When the sitemap page is created, make sure it is linked to from each page of the blog.
Time for action: Download the free sitemap WordPress plugin from http://www.optiniche.com/go/sitemap and install it on your blog. Create your sitemap page according to the plugin instructions, adjust the options until everything is to your liking, and double check to make sure it’s working as intended.
Curbing duplicate content penalties doesn’t need to be a difficult or involved process. In less than 30 minutes, your blog can be enhanced by using excerpts on the archive and category pages, truncating posts on the front page, and sprucing up your internal linking structure. Making those small changes will have you off to a great start.
Teli Adlam is a blog consultant specializing in website and blog marketing. Visit http://www.optiniche.com/blog/ to learn more about WordPress, blogging, and traffic generation. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter for even more tips and techniques.