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I hear conflicting answers from people about this, and I'm a developer by trade, and my SEO knowledge is not what it should be. Here's my situation:

I run a website that lists hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, etc for a small Asian beach town. Lots of establishments here are hotels with a restaurant and bar, as well as restaurants that are also bars. As en example, a Mexican restaurant that also functions as a full cocktail bar.

I first set it up so each establishment has one page, but can create multiple pages based on their other areas of business. This forces people to create TWO listings under the same name, and most just add the exact same information onto each page, making things redundant.

I am re-arranging the database so that a establishment has only ONE listing (one unique page referenced by the unique code '12345ABCDEF') that is accessible from browsing under "Restaurants" and "Bars", and has the URL structures:

site.com/dining/mexican/12345ABCDEF/business-name.html
site.com/bars/cocktail_bars/12345ABCDEF/business-name.html

I could easily simplify the URL to just the unique code and name:

site.com/12345ABCDEF/business-name.html

But, I found that Google has parsed by URL structure and lists like this on their SERP:

Home > Dining > Mexican

With each pointing to the default page for homepage, restaurants and Mexican restaurants. If I simplify the URL structure, will I lose these associations? Could Google also be picking up this structure from my breadcrumb trail at the top of the page?

What is the best way to set up URL's on these pages so I am not penalized by Google for having identical information on two URL's, while still being able to have places show up as they did with the old system?

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3 Answers 3

Short Answer: it it not ok.

Long answer: it is never ok to duplicate your content.

the solution here is to use the canonical tag to tell google that all these pages are actually one. And in url XML sitemap, there should be also just one unique URL for your resource.

second, you can easily keep the breadcrumbs using the bread crumbs snippets.

third, it is confusing to your users, hence to google too. in terms of information architecture , it is possible to have multiple routes to the same page, however, this page should have a main" category.

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+1 for mentioning rel=canonical and breadcrumb microdata, even if I don't really like the alarmist tone. –  Ilmari Karonen Nov 7 '12 at 23:33

If looking for a Mexican restaurant, which would you be more likely to click on?

Without getting carried away, urls that contain keywords are muy bueno: This isn't totally on topic but it's related and it's from Matt Cutts of Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=971qGsTPs8M

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Google will be able to handle duplicate content like that, and it wouldn't cause any significant (noticeable) issues to have URLs duplicated a few times in that way. Don't let us stop you if you feel that this is useful to your users! That said, there are two caveats:

  • Google will need to crawl & index these duplicates, meaning your server's resources will be used more, and it may take a bit longer to update all of those copies when you add, remove, or modify content.
  • Google will try to choose a single URL to index the content with. It can happen that it'll choose a URL that doesn't match what you'd prefer (for whatever reason). You can resolve that by using a rel=canonical on the pages to point to your preferred version.
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