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I want to provide friendlyurls to my visitors on my venue site. Visitors should be able to easily type the name of a region to access the venues in that specific region.

Like

www.mydomain.com/<cityname> 

and

www.mydomain.com/<statename>/<cityname>

For example:

www.mydomain.com/houston and www.mydomain.com/texas/houston

Ofcourse this URL: www.mydomain.com/houston is showing the exact same venues as www.mydomain.com/texas/houston

And Google considers this duplicate content. So now I'm thinking of creating a cannonical tag, saying this: www.mydomain.com/houston is my primary URL and point this URL www.mydomain.com/texas/houston to my primary URL.

update: why would I want these 2 urlformats in the first place? Because some visitors would like to know: show me all venues in texas, while others want to see all venues in a specific city, houston in this case. By using this format, users can simply change the url to see venues in a specific area. Also, Google seems to prefer that searchwords occur in the URL and occur in the beginning of the URL, so this way I target users searching on statename AND on cityname.

Is this the best practice?

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Would users normally type the URL or enter this info into some kind of search box? I would have thought the canonical URL was /<statename>/<cityname> rather than simply /<cityname>? –  w3d Dec 31 '12 at 9:40
    
I updated my post with my reasoning for the 2 URL formats. Why would you say the canonical url would be /<statename>/<cityname>? –  Flo Dec 31 '12 at 10:21
    
I think Zistoloen touches on why with "...why do you use two different format URL for the same content?" It really depends on whether you consider cityname to be unique. In the whole of the US cityname is not unique, so sometimes you would need to use statename+cityname to identify the content (even with state+city there are a few duplicates!) So, sometimes you would have a canonical URL that consists of /<cityname> and sometimes /<statename>/<cityname> - and you would have to decided for every city, this adds a confusing layer of ambiguity IMO. –  w3d Dec 31 '12 at 11:31
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Also, if you have both /<statename>/<cityname> and /<cityname> (and /<statename>) then the first field refers to 2 types of data. You need to look up both and determine a priority. What does /washington refer to? These ambiguities also mean that users won't necessarily know how to construct the URL if they are typing it. However, /<cityname> could be a handy shortcut, where it is unique, but it wouldn't be the canonical URL. –  w3d Dec 31 '12 at 11:36
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Personally I would do the opposite canonical - ie set /texas/houston as canon instead of /houston - the main reason being to avoid name clashes with identical names in other states. A URL of /springfield could be a little confusing, even if you are showing a specific Springfield page. You also get an extra keyword in the URL.

Secondly, I would always prefer a 301 Redirect to a canonical tag as it helps make the URL clearer to users (for reasons above) and if they copy-paste the URL anywhere, you get the direct URL.

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Ok, interesting...and what about my assumption that Google seems to prefer keywords more at the beginning of an URL? In my case more users will search on venues by city then by state. With /<state>/<city> as primary URL (that's what you meant by set it as canon right?) the city keyword moves further to the back, which I thought would be less desirable. –  Flo Dec 31 '12 at 12:23
1  
@Floran: Don't think keywords but think visitors ;). –  Zistoloen Dec 31 '12 at 12:45
2  
Supposedly keywords closer to the start of the title make a difference, but I've never heard of that with the URL. Honestly the difference is so small - moving city to the second keyword instead of first - that I cannot see it making any difference whatsoever. –  DisgruntledGoat Dec 31 '12 at 12:47
    
@DisgruntledGoat: ok, thanks. So to summarize: I should use <state>/<city> as my primary (or canonical) URL. And I should 301 redirect requests to /<city> to <state>/<city>...correct? –  Flo Jan 3 '13 at 9:55
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@Floran Yes, that's what I would do. It makes the site structure clear and if having the city keyword closer to the front of the URL does make a difference (which I doubt) it's still very close to the front anyway. –  DisgruntledGoat Jan 9 '13 at 23:37
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If 2 indexed pages have the same content, indeed, it's duplicate content. And it's bad for SEO.

To avoid it, you can put the canonical meta on one of two URLs but why do you use two different format URL for the same content? I think it's not relevant for visitors.

You can choose one type for your URLs and keep it for the entire site. In that case, you can put 301 redirects from one to the second. For example: redirecting "www.mydomain.com/houston" to "www.mydomain.com/texas/houston" if you want to mention states in your site or the opposite if you don't want to mention states.

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I updated my post with my reasoning for the 2 URL formats. What are your thoughts on that? And doing a 301 redirect is perhaps not desired since with a 301 redirect comes (albeit slight) linkjuice loss. –  Flo Dec 31 '12 at 10:20
    
@Floran: Ok, if you want keep a state page and a city page to present all cities of state on state page, avoid 301 redirect. I recommend you to add some text about state et minimize text from cities (just few words and link to them) on state page. You can thus avoid duplicate content between two pages. –  Zistoloen Dec 31 '12 at 10:42
    
@Zistolen: No, the state page would not just show all cities in that state, it would show all venues in that state across all cities. Does that make a difference to your answer? –  Flo Dec 31 '12 at 12:27
    
@Floran: Ok no matter, it doesn't change anything. The aim is to avoid duplicate content between your two pages. –  Zistoloen Dec 31 '12 at 12:43
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