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What is duplicate content and how can I avoid being penalized for it on my site?

The same page, or rather the same content on a page is accessible from two very similar URLs, namely:

The URL param in this case affects all the navigation links on the page. Basically, the same page is accessible via two separate navigation routes. To the end user, who doesn't look at the URL, they could be perceived as two separate pages in different parts of the site, although the content is identical.

I have a rel="canonical" link element linking to the first URL (without the URL param).

Could a search engine perceive this as duplicate content?

I think my eyes have gone square, but I was considering adding a robots "noindex" meta tag to the page when the catIndex URL param exists. But it is really the same URL and I do want the content indexed once, so I'm now thinking this would be foolish?!

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marked as duplicate by danlefree Oct 14 '12 at 22:14

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you're using canonical URLs, and you are, you're fine. Canonical URLs were created for the very scenario you are experiencing. Don't change or worry about a thing. :)

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Thanks, I'll leave as is. Just curious though, IF I was to add a "noindex" meta tag to the "page.php?catIndex=1" page would this be in danger of also removing "page.php" from the search engine indexes? –  w3d Jul 21 '11 at 10:47
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It wouldn't if you specifically had the noindex meta tag only when the query string is present. But I wouldn't risk it when you have a better solution available to you that is easy to do. –  John Conde Jul 21 '11 at 11:58

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