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

My compony's site's home page was not specificly optimized to any location. Now, I am planning to optimize it to Boston, and create ten or so other landing pages for other locations we serve. If we made these new pages by copying the original Boston one and changing the location's name (s/Boston/Montreal/), would Google consider them as duplicate pages and penalize us? What is the best practice for this?

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marked as duplicate by danlefree Oct 14 '12 at 22:20

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Copying a page ten times and changing one word isn't really "optimizing," it's exactly the kind of thing the duplicate content rules were meant to catch; it'll look like spamdexing. Your intentions might not be malicious, but try explaining that to a web spider. At best the dupe pages probably won't rank all that well if not necessarily penalized, and at worst they'll be flagged as duplicate content and ignored.

The best practice would probably be closer to leaving the page where it is and finding some way to point out that you serve CityA, CityB, CityC, etc. That or coming up with original content actually targeted to the various cities.

As a non-SEO sidenote, if a visitor happens to jump between city pages and spot the selective search/replace on content, it looks chintzy on your part.

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