“I have a number of websites used to market XYZ Travel. The main site features all products and a number of specialist / boutique websites feature duplicates of these products. Is this an acceptable practice or am I being penalized by Google? How can this be overcome?

“I accept that creative write-ups can be rewritten if essential but fact is fact – what can I do about factual data i.e. room numbers, types, facilities, amenities, address, rates, name etc?”
ANSWER: Since duplicate content became a hot issue a few years ago I have been asked this question many times. Fortunately it seems you are in a position that should not yield any problems but before I explain let me first state what I understand from your email so there is no miscommunication.

Your state of affairs: You have one larger site that has all of your products and a few other sites that serve as niche sites specializing in particular products from your main website. You are concerned that some essential data such as travel details may count as duplicate content because they have to be identical across both the main site and the niche site(s).

And Now My Answer: Provided each page with the duplicated product details also has substantial unique content I believe you will have no problem with duplicate content “penalties”. And I am sure you have substantial unique content on these niche sites otherwise there would be no point in creating the sites short of spamming the search engines which is always a bad idea.

It is worthy of noting, however, that even if there were an issue of duplicate content Google representatives have clearly noted that pages with significant duplicate content are merely met with disinterest by the search engine algorithm and passed over; so your site is not directly penalized per se.

The only penalty of any significance takes place when there is evidence of serious duplicate content abuse; when there are nearly identical pages across an entire site. This is common when sites are copies of other sites at which point serious penalties (such as removing the site from the index) are without question the best action.

I hope that has helped you. If you or anyone else would like to pose a question to the StepForth team please visit our SEO Questions form and we will get back to you as soon as possible with an answer.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.