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

My website is for U.S. military members, helping them enjoy their base more by providing places to go on/off base, and information to learn about the base. It is capable of supporting every military base world-wide.

Each base has it's own landing page. From here users can see content like: place pages, "blog" posts, etc... Here's where my question comes in.

Places can be viewed by bases within a given distance of that place, so some places will appear on multiple base pages.

Blog posts are tiered. They can be global (appear on all bases), regional (appear in all U.S. bases, or overseas), sub-regional (appear in Japan, or Germany, etc...), or specifically for one base.

How do I avoid duplicate content penalties for places/posts that span more than one base?

For example: here is the same post on one base, and on another. The url is different, but the content is the same, but it's "legitimately duplicated".

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marked as duplicate by danlefree Oct 14 '12 at 22:08

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Use canonical URLs to point to one "main" page. That way if Google has issues with the duplicate content they can choose one to show and not penalize the other sites. Even with canonical URLs Google may still show the other pages if someone does a search where the other site is more relevant so this doesn't necessarily mean only one page will show in the search results (this isn't exactly clear just yet so it may be subject to change).

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